By Donna McCollum | June 21, 2019 at 3:03 PM CDT – Updated June 21 at 9:16 PM
NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) -The graduates of the Respect Institute are women with mental and emotional challenges. Their road to healing was achieved by learning to share their personal stories in front of groups.

Respect Institute graduates step up to a microphone. Their graduation is marked with bringing up painful memories publicly. For Cheryl White it was her son’s death.

“In 2017 I witnessed my son taking his last breath. It was a home invasion. They came in and murdered my son,” said White before familiar and not-so-familiar people attending the Respect Institute graduation.

At the time of her son’s death White was addicted to drugs and alcohol. It landed her in prison. That’s where she began telling her life story. Now sober, the Respect Institute is where she learned to share it publicly. White remembers that first speech.

“Wow. That was something kind of shaky for me, but I made it through,” White said with a smile.

Kimberly Luce survived her speeches, too. The graduate tells listeners about being abused from the age of 5. As a teen, drug addiction and suicidal thoughts became her story. Then a severe brain injury. Even a loving grandmother couldn’t put Luce’s life together.

“After the traumatic brain injury all the emotional brokenness, the lack of coping skills, along with some bad habits I began a life of risky and volatile behaviors,” shared Luce in her speech.

Painful accounts, but beneficial to the listener and the storyteller says Respect Institute Coordinator Jim Lemon.

” We are encouraging them to speak as independent unique special people, said Lemon. “And as you saw today, those ladies were not programmed. And their stories are authentic.”

The ultimate-goal is a trained speaker’s bureau. It’s also a hope for recovery, which these women have in sight.

“We make plans, but God makes decisions,” said White.

“Your past is not your destination. God has a plan and purpose for your life,” shared Luce.

The next Respect Institute 3-day classes in Nacogdoches will be in September. Contact the SFA Social Work Department to learn how to get involved.

The ultimate goal is to develop the speaker’s confidence and diminish the public’s misconceptions. Sharing the story can lead to a storyteller’s recovery.

Copyright 2019 KTRE. All rights reserved.

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