Kinsey's Story

May 1st, 2019

                        Kinsey's Story 

While interning at the Bethlehem Center in the Community Connection department, I was able to connect with seniors on a level I didn’t know was possible. I was beyond nervous going into the senior homes to play bingo.  I almost shut down, and I had no idea where I was. I am obviously caucasian and I was afraid I would be looked down upon, because of the inequalities that have been created between my African - American brothers and sisters.That was far from the case, they welcomed me with open arms and made me feel emotions I didn’t know I was capable of feeling. These seniors have made me laugh, cry, and created memories for me that I will never forget. They truly have impacted my being and have changed my perception of life itself. 

Community Connection is such a great program to be involved with at the Bethlehem Center! Many forget that the adults in the community need guidance and company just as much as the children do. It was such a beautiful experience to sit down and talk about their lives, struggles, and accomplishments. 

After months of interning, I got to know Ms. Lillie, Ms. Annie, and Ms. Donna who are part of the community near the Beth. Let me just say when you are around these women, you can’t leave their side without a smile on your face. They exude wisdom and resilience, and for me that is enough to feel empowered. When I was around them I felt as though we were friends, and they created a space for me within their community and that is something I’ve never felt in my life. 

They gave me the confidence and courage to be comfortable here in the Community Connection program. 

Posted by The Beth

Camp Lookout

March 28th, 2019

Camp Lookout

  Hello! My name is Shari, and I’m the Marketing Manager at the Bethlehem Center. During spring break, some of our students from the Read to Lead Academy and the Bethlehem Leadership Unit (B.L.U.) attended Camp Lookout for the second year in a row. I had the privilege of spending some time with the high schoolers while taking pictures of their different camp activities.

  Let me tell you, they were a brave bunch! They rock climbed, zip lined, balanced with high ropes, swung through the air on a V-swing, went caving in the depths of Lookout Mountain, and more! I saw many face their fears as their peers encouraged and cheered them on. I saw genuine friendship and care for one another. I witnessed growth through stories about last year’s obstacle courses being too difficult to overcome, and how this year, those same obstacles became a piece of cake!

   Asia, one of our B.L.U. students, scaled the side of a rock wall with nothing but a harness and rope being held by a camp counselor at the bottom. Her fellow campers gathered around, chanting her name. She pulled herself up onto the platform as another counselor hooked her to a new rope that would send her soaring through the air.

  “I can’t do it. I can’t do it!” she yelled.

  “Yes, you can! We got you! If anyone can do it, you can!”, her friends cheered.

  Asia stepped a little closer to the edge only to step back once a cold breeze hit her cheeks. “You can do it, Asia! You’ve gone so far already!” yelled her bunkmate Toria, bundled in her coat. After a few deep breaths, Asia sat on the edge and scooted herself off the platform. Her body whisked past me and my camera! Her screaming quickly turned to laughter as she flew towards an open sky. 

The grin on her face was proof that this would be a story she’d share with everyone back home.


  Jefferey stood 35 feet in the air as we all watched from below, wrapped in blankets and scarves. He pulled two ropes along as he walked. The ropes were attached to his harness and a cable above his head. The cable followed the path he would have to cross before reaching the bungee swing. Jefferey is extremely afraid of heights, but he persisted through the course. With each step, he questioned his decision, but his friends reminded him that it would be over soon.

  He balanced across a log, hopped from one wood plank to the other, balanced across a thin cable line, and hopped again to the final course. Once a counselor hooked Jefferey’s harness to the V-swing, Jefferey pulled back and waited for the countdown to begin. He would have to allow the weight of the swing to pull him off the edge and sling him through the air. “What am I doing?” he yelled as we began to count. “ No, wait! Stop!”, he continued yelling.

“You got this, Jefferey! It’s going to be the best feeling ever!”, yelled a friend who just finished the course. Jefferey took a deep breath and waited for us to finish. 3...2...1.

He screamed as he swooped over fields, horses, and a nearby pond.  First he swung high and then slowly started to sway closer to the ground. Once he stopped, the biggest grin you’ve ever seen formed under curly blonde hair.

  It was so cool to watch these kids grow in their confidence and experience new things with each other. By completing these obstacle courses, they learned how to communicate their needs, trust their camp leaders, and take care of one another. It was a spring break well spent!

 Shari J. Watson

Shari is a UTC graduate with a background in music and writing. She is currently the Marketing Manager at the Bethlehem Center. She enjoys being out in nature, laughing with friends, eating Chinese food, and traveling as much as she can.

Posted by The Beth

Special Moments at the Beth

February 26th, 2019

Special Moments at the Beth                           

Hello! My name is Brooklynn Ray, but I go by Marie. I am currently a student at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. I’m also a social work intern at the Bethlehem Center (the Beth), and I’m currently working with the Education Department. Working at the Beth has become a part of my life, which means that everyone who knows me knows that the Beth is all I talk about. I’m either discussing how my day was, which child impacted me, or my plans to help these kids in the future whether with their education, their behavior, or to help them grow in all aspects of life. The Beth has become a second home to me! The students there have become like my own kids, and I love them with every piece of me.

For example, I was originally assigned to work with the middle schoolers, known as the Butterflies. I have a very close connection with each one of them. I’m aware of what they like, dislike, what intrigues them, and even the way they speak (because most times they like to speak in codes, lol). During my time with them, I have strongly bonded with one special girl in particular named Quinntazia. When we first met it was a little rocky.  I was new, which meant the kids would try to see what they could get away with. Quinntazia tried that for the first week but soon realized that I wasn’t mean, but I wasn’t going to allow her and the other students to walk over me.

  After that, we became close. One day she was having a hard time and felt like no one was listening to her so I sat with her, told her it was okay, and that she could speak to me and let me know what was going on. We would work together on how to solve the problem. That day she began to trust me and the bond continued to grow from there. Since then she makes sure to hug me and say hello and goodbye. I love her like she is my own child, and I’m happy to see how much she has grown in school and in her behavior. Speaking with her more and more has made me see a little bit of myself in her when I was younger. I can’t wait to see how much she grows with the right tools and support.Another child who has strongly impacted me is Shatorria.

      Working with Shatorria has shown me patience because sometimes she can be a handful whether she’s talking all day, dancing, joking around, or just wants some love. She is very passionate about whatever she is discussing or interested in, and I love her for that. When she is focused on a negative topic such as bad behavior, an incident at school, or daily life issues, I have learned how to change her focus or discussion to something positive. Shatorria also had a breakthrough moment with me as well. While having a bad day, she trusted me enough to sit down with me and let everything go so we could begin to have a better rest of the day. Shatorria is very strong-minded, very protective, and very affectionate. She makes sure that every day she asks if she can hug me just to show love and that she cares. I love her like she is also mine.

          These two girls have changed my life and have made my time at the Beth greater than what it could have been.  I look forward to seeing them every time I’m at the Beth. I am also lucky because on Wednesdays I’m allowed to eat lunch with them at their school and discuss anything they want. I’m also thankful to work at the Beth because when I was younger I lived in Nashville, TN and also grew up in a community center called Bethlehem Center!  That place helped me grow into the person I am today, and I’m happy that I can now be a part of a similar organization. Hopefully, I will have a strong impact on the kids here, just like the center had on me when I was younger.

Marie Ray

Marie is a senior at UTC majoring in social work. She enjoys cooking, singing, and traveling. She is a part of the Littleton H. Mason Singers at UTC and has traveled to Ireland, Whales, England, and France. She plans to continue her travel adventures! After graduation she plans to attend Southern Adventist University in fall 2019 and receive her Master's in Social Work. Afterwards, her goal is to be a marriage and family therapist.

Posted by The Beth

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