Emeri works behind the counter at Greenline Coffee.

Emeri Garrett works part-time at Greenline Coffee. She greets customers from behind the counter with a warm, inviting smile. She’s shy but doesn’t let it show—it’s important to be outgoing and make people feel welcome.

Today is her day off, yet she comes to the shop on business. Arnold Sojourner called Emeri so they could meet to discuss college scholarships. Emeri plans to attend Central State in Ohio this fall. She wants to study to become a registered nurse. “I thought about becoming a physical therapist, but this is a better fit,” she explains. “It still allows me to help people.”

Her predilection toward helping others may come from not having had much help herself. She and her mom have moved a half-dozen times within the last year, though they’ve stayed close by to the neighborhood. Emeri has an older brother who doesn’t live with them—the two aren’t very close. No one else in the family ever attended college, which means Emeri would be the first to do so.

The benefit of having stayed closed to Woodlawn is that she was able to maintain community—she’s been attending youth programs at Sunshine since the 4th grade, and in 7th grade, she got plugged into a bible study at a nearby church. This past summer, Emeri went through Sunshine’s WorkLife program, where she describes, “getting introduced to new ideas” and learning new things. Mr. Sojourner, who runs WorkLife, immediately recognized in Emeri a strong sense of identity.

“She was one of my favorites because she’s comfortable in her own skin,” he says.

No doubt this comes from so many others pouring into Emeri’s life over the last nine years. From Sojourner’s perspective, the combined influences of family, church, and Sunshine staff planted the seeds for Emeri to “know who she is in Christ,” empowering her to make “critical decisions” about what to do with her life.

“[Emeri] is doing all the right things [and] she knows what she wants to do. Now she’s just looking for opportunity.”

This summer, opportunity means finding full-time employment to help earn money for school in the fall. As Sojourner works on recruiting a new batch of teens for this summer, he wants them to understand how making good short-term decisions leads to better opportunity, pointing to Emeri as a tangible example.