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Rysheda Elliot

Raised by a dysfunctional family, it’s no wonder that at an early age

I began a life of addiction, crime and mental health issues. I have 5 children and 9 grandchildren but my life of destruction led me to be arrested over 27 times, separating me from my family. I have been in countless treatment facilities, and was unable to get free from the cycle. I felt no hope. At one rehab center, I was labeled a “chronic relapser“ with no chance of recovery (a term I actually saw in my chart). There, I was escorted out and denied treatment. It felt like the end.

I then met Larry Adams, a persistent minister, who convinced me to join him at church. That was the best decision of my life. After church,

I found myself on the corner, on my knees crying out to God. Two weeks later, God answered my cry but not in the way I expected. I was arrested without eligibility for release. I knew this was God at work. My transformation began the moment I decided not to go back to my old ways. I made a promise to the Lord in prison, “If you will change my life, you can use me.” I used every program fostering change the prison had to offer. I found out in prison that I have leadership skills. I used the time as preparation for change. I returned home to 5 years state parole. My relationship with God grew and miracles began to happen. By the grace of God, here are some of my accomplishments: I am an Ordained Evangelist Certified Peer Specialist. I attended college and graduated with a degree in behavioral health and will be pursuing a doctoral degree. I became a counselor in a facility where I had once been a client. I implemented a curriculum Thinking for a Change in the Philadelphia prison system for over 6 years. I am co-founder of Ur Storytellers, an organization that helps others tell their story in effective ways. I worked at Drexel University as a peer specialist in the same prison where I was an inmate. I now work as a victim advocate helping those affected by homicide. I have certificates in Mental Health First Aid, addressing anger management, and group facilitation. I have provided grief counseling for family members of homicide victims and have mentored countless women and men who are looking for substantial change. My life is founded on the principle that we become so others can become.