Valedictorian testifies: "God has a plan for my life."
Ciara’s cottage mom meets her at the door. “You have a message. Dr. Blackwell called. He wants you to call him.”
The eighteen-year-old stops in her tracks. “I didn’t know what to do. The president of Baptist Children’s Homes (BCH) wants me to call him –– and he gave me his personal cell phone number.”
She punches the numbers; the phone rings as she holds her breath. “Ciara, is that you?”
“Yes sir,” she replied, quietly listening. “Yes sir, I did get accepted into University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.”
Blackwell’s voice booms from the phone. He is ecstatic. Ciara would be attending his alma mater. “I’m so super proud of you. This is ‘over the moon’ great news.”
Ciara smiles wide, happy in the moment, celebrating her success. The other good news she shares is that she is ranked number one in her graduating class of 162 students. She will be Thomasville High Schools’s 2019 Valedictorian.
Before Blackwell wraps up their conversation, telling Ciara more about being a Tar Heel, he says, “Carolina graduates span the world. You are a part of something big.” Then his voice lowers and he speaks with a somber tone, “But remember, we are your family. No matter where your life leads you, you can always come home.”
Ciara Stubblefield never knew her birth father. Her mother was 16 years old when she moved to Tennessee where Ciara was born. She was strong, independent minded and determined to care for Ciara and her younger sister.
“My sister and I felt loved,” she remembers. “I know she made bad choices, but it was the drug addiction that destroyed our mom and our family.”
Their mother overdosed and died on July 3, 2013. In November, the girls came to Mills Home.
“Mom always placed a priority on our school work. We went to school and she had expectations that we do well,” Ciara recalls. “And we did.”
Ciara is proud of how well she and her sister are doing in school. Her sister, who now lives with an aunt, and Ciara’s grade point averages are only fractions apart –– with Ciara keeping the lead.
“When I first arrived at Mills Home, I couldn’t help but feel that I had done something wrong,” she confides. “It took a while for me to realize that what had happened to me wasn’t my fault. I began to understand that God had a plan for my life.”
In October 2014, Ciara said, “It clicked.” She had watched her Christian cottage parents.
She had listened closely to Mills Home Baptist Church pastor Randy Stewart’s words. She knew she wanted Jesus in her life.
“I’m part of that BCH statistic that says 80% of the children who come into care are unchurched,” she says. “I went from attending church occasionally, to attending church every Sunday and Wednesday. There are cottage devotions. You learn how God wants a relationship with you. It’s mind blowing.”
Ciara begins her freshman year at UNC-Chapel Hill in the fall. She plans to major in physics. “I’m going to college. It’s weird and I’m a little scared. But I’m ready. My family at Mills Homes is there for me, encouraging me, giving me a place to call home. And I’m trusting God to guide my every step.”
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Written by Jim Edminson, Charity & Children Editor