On March 18, I attended the Bay Area screening of Carissa, a documentary about Carissa Phelps, an incredibly strong young woman who went from being an abandoned and victimized street kid to a graduate of UCLA with both a law degree and an MBA. Carissa brings Ms. Phelps back to "Motel Drive," a gritty street in Fresno where she once worked as a child prostitute.
The movie is both heartbreaking and inspiring. No child should have to overcome such obstacles, but far too many kids can identify with Carissa’s past. And far too few are able to achieve their dreams.
Carissa credits her counselor and her algebra teacher at Fresno’s juvenile hall with her turnaround. They cared about her, and they believed in her. After the screening of the film, Carissa left us with these words from her algebra teacher – "A girl with the potential to go anywhere she wants, and she has!"
Now, Carissa is focused on fulfilling her destiny to eliminate street prostitution of children, one neighborhood at a time. She has started her efforts in Fresno, a city in the Central Valley which has always struggled to attract philanthropic funding. Here’s hoping that Carissa and Carissa will achieve her goal and find the support so badly needed. If you’d like to make a difference, investing in a project led by this amazing, intelligent woman should give you confidence of a great return. I particularly urge California foundation leaders and staff to take a closer look at The Carissa Project’s efforts.
Click here to learn more about The Carissa Project.