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Written by Kati Ranson, Reading Coordinator at Casa Linda UMC

Imagine being lightyears away from who you truly are, and then being thrown in an environment where you have no other option but to be yourself. That’s how Project Transformation North Texas turned out for me. I came to PTNT, in the summer of 2019, as a reading coordinator, with what felt like two worthless years of university, no permanent address, about $16, and a tiny spark of hope. I was placed at Christ’s Foundry United Methodist Mission, with a team of four free spirits. Even though my own spirit still felt caged at times, I never felt like I was on the outside. I was always in the center with them, and we cherished each other, just as much as we challenged each other. Between three open-minded youth members and a very dedicated site coordinator, I learned how to laugh to keep from crying, and as a team, we passed that laughter and joy on to our kids. We were given the opportunity to run a summer day camp that worked as both a safe space, and an exciting learning environment. We were learning alongside the youth. 

The job was much more than just monitoring reading levels or afternoon lit. The youth and my team taught me so much about myself and about life. I learned to be more aware, as many of our Christ’s Foundry youth and my teammates happened to be going through things that were much bigger than me. Yet, they were all so very brave. I’ll never meet a more resilient bunch of youth. They were witty, creative, open-minded, and bold. They became my inspiration, and my team became the force that drove me. Soon enough, with every team outing, every smile, every new experience, and every bond I created, that tiny spark of hope began to pool into something even bigger. I found a new belief in myself and in others. 

I was given a platform to tell my story, during our final worship. I never felt like I had a story, before PTNT. I’d always felt aimless and silent, but for the first time, I felt like someone needed to hear what I had to say, and that’s because this organization embodies love, through the members, through the kids, through hard working staff, who are always willing to walk with us, through volunteers and partnering churches, through parents, site pastors, and the communities in which our children reside. It was the love I felt that made me want to open up. I spent an entire summer living outside of my comfort zone, and I haven’t been the same since. Currently, I am a reading coordinator for the afterschool program at Casa Linda United Methodist Church, where I’ve been given another opportunity to grow and extend more of my heart and knowledge to yet another brilliant group of kids. I’ve been challenged, but I have become more outspoken, more confident in my abilities, more patient, and much more self-aware. 

One of PTNT’s core values is Discernment of Purpose, and I feel like I’ve found purpose, at only 20 years of age. I realized that I have a desire to teach. I now know more about who I am, and I love that person. She’s growing, slowly but surely, thanks to the amount of love that she found through PTNT. I am forever grateful to have this blessing of an organization in my life. I feel that I truly have been transformed.