Testimonials | FamiliesFirst for MS


Vonda Agulanna (Oxford, MS)

"The staff was very low key, personable, down to earth. They treat you like a person, not as a client. Dealing with my educators, I could really say what was on my heart. They understood how to apply the skills to it. In the social arena, it really helped me to learn how to approach another person to not let things go "down hill" in the communication realm. They stressed the importance of taking care of yourself. They always ask "what have done for yourself?" They gave me a reboot on my dreams."

Devonya Bell (Columbus, MS)

"I really learned a lot from the classes I have taken here. Healthy Relationships class helped me better understand what was going on in my life. Anger Management had me deal with my issues. I was in a bad part of my life and anger was taking over. These classes really showed me how to deal with the issue. Parenting classes helped the most because I have a 1 year old and 8 week old and it showed me how to progress and become a much better person. Mrs. Iris was so helpful and listened to my problems. Families First is a great program and I really enjoyed it here."

Lynette Hill (Southaven, MS)

"This is an amazing group and facility! They have helped me in most aspects of my life. My son does his schooling here. They have helped re-do my resume, taught me to tweak it for different jobs, referred me to bill assistance, helped me put parental blocks on all of our Ipads and phones, referred me to free tax prepare-rs, and much much more. They are my go to for EVERYTHING!"


An ESL participant-

"I love the English classes. They have been of great help to me so I can understand the language. It also has helped me to integrate into society. I have learned to fend for myself and wish that they could offer many more classes. I love how our teacher explains things and how patient she is with us. She helps so very much."

Lakisha Ivey (Southaven, MS)

"I had a wonderful experience with DeSoto County Family Resource Center. The atmosphere is so pleasant and friendly. Symbol was great as well as the front desk staff!! Mrs. Christi was wonderful in assisting with job search details. I'm so grateful to have come here and encourage anyone who needs assistance to come and check it out!!!"

Inmate at the Chickasaw County Regional Correctional Facility

"I have learned that there are people who care about us and our families. Men like Mr. McFarland and others who give of their time to give us some insight and wisdom they have used to succeed. Letting me know we can do better and show us some tools to learn. It is good to confront with the purpose of a better life for everyone. Share the gospel not gossip. We can learn from our mistakes and not repeat them. I can have fun in life without getting in trouble. It is OK to forgive myself and others. I don’t have to do the same things I use to do that causes problems. I have learned the difference between criticism and confrontation. This improves my way of dealing with things. I don’t need to be a door mat or a bully."

My name is Ada CIaudio. I came to Family Resource Center in October 2017 to learn how to use proper English grammar since my primary language is Spanish. I began using the ESL reading smart program on the computer and taking lessons. I feel like I can speak more fluently and write in English better since coming to the center in Hernando. The ladies are helpful and professional with any questions I have. It's a nice quiet place to learn. I would suggest this place to anyone.

Tabitha Rozell (Columbus, MS)

"I attended life skills and parenting class at the resource center. The classes helped me to value life more and understand that their is not a perfect parent and there is always room for improvement. I know that my past does not affect my future and we all have to keep pushing and moving forward through life's endeavors."

Cody Spriggs (Hernando, MS)

"The NLRO reading material is fantastic. There is always someone to help when needed and the program is easy to use and understand.

Laura Cervantes (DeSoto County)

"The English classes are very important for me because they offer me the chance to learn to speak the language of this county in order to have a better opportunity and enjoy a better quality of life. It helps us to integrate into society without fear of not being able to communicate effectively and risk rejection from others simply because we are learning to communicate and we are developing socially and economically. I feel that 2 days a week are not enough."

Tonya Young-Lewisburg Middle School Counselor

"Y'all did an awesome job. We appreciate you taking time to help our students. They really enjoyed your sessions and learned a lot. Our Communitiy's most valuable resource in educational excellence is our local people working together to make a difference. Thanks again."

Dawn Jenkins

Several months ago, I was asked to attend a class offered through First Family. I was placed in “Conflict Resolution.” My first experience, I was introduced into Anger Management. I honestly believed I was in the wrong class, and even asked what class I was attending. By the end of the first class, I realized one person’s anger or conflict may be perceived one way, while mine was totally different, yet both very relatable. Each week, I found myself looking forward to the next and the next angle to address. Every week, I left feeling more in control. I quickly began to anticipate the next week. The classes I attended honestly left me searching my soul, my thoughts, my attitude, & even my perspective daily.
I’ve shared information I took away each week with family & friends, & have been told they see a difference in how I approach different situations now.I was truly blessed to be placed with these awesome people. No matter your age, you ALWAYS can evolve into a better you! I feel as though there should be no end to this journey. I left eager to learn more-to find peace daily & be satisfied with myself & decisions. Always remind yourself, there is room to grow mentally & emotionally! Thanks to First Family for reminding me and being a wonderful experience!"

Anonymous (Hernando, MS)

"Ms. Lee was such a blessing. Actually the whole staff has been a blessing since I walked through the door. I look forward to taking these classes and thank everyone for helping me look for housing and assistance for my boys and myself. Thank you so much and Gob bless!"

Micaela Sherrod (Columbus, MS)

"Trying to get yourself together and making sure the kids have the things they need is tough. I'm thankful I found this program. You all helped me a lot."

Inmate at the Chickasaw County Regional Correctional Facility

What I’ve Learned Since I’ve Been in “Fatherhood”

"First and most important is that the main key to being a positive and productive father is that you have to be able to communicate with your kids, as well as their “mothers”. I’ve learned that loyalty, love, and listening are key words to remember and to always try to keep your emotions under control. As a father I’ve learned that I can’t be selfish. I now know that stress is going to be a factor. But there are steps and options to take so you can positively deal with the problems as they occur. As a father I have to never give up…Faith and Hope and put God first and strive to be the best father I possibly can be. And not let negative people detour you. Always take time to weigh your options and choose what will better your family and yourself. Have fun and spend time talking and teaching your kids. Just to be a better man than I was yesterday and live life."


Tazz Dutcher (Jackson, MS)

Tazz came to Families First to receive help finding a job after 10 years of incarceration. Tazz learned after spending time at the Jackson Center that she wanted to help others in similar situations. Tazz volunteers in the clothing closet two days a week, organizing and sorting clothing donations. She stated, "Families First is about encouraging someone else. I enjoy volunteering because of the social interaction and helping others. The staff makes you feel at home. They will go the extra mile for you."

Aliyah (Canton, MS) 

Aliyah Emnn walked through the doors of the Canton Families First Resource Center February 9, 2018. She had no idea what was in store but she came to find out more about the services Families First offers. She had a rough couple years and was ready to come out on top. She had to drop out of High School due to an unplanned pregnancy. She had to put her child up for adoption and she ended up getting addicted to meth. Her drug abuse went on for 3years. She has now been clean for a year.

Trainer, Dorothy Bolton explained the services Families First has to offer and walked her to the computer lab to go through the High School Diploma Program. Aliyah was intrigued and quickly began to work on her High School Diploma. In the meantime she also wanted to find employment. Dorothy showed her the printout she had of all the jobs in the Canton area and the requirements. Aliyah expressed interest in the Wendy’s Restaurant listing. 

Dorothy helped Aliyah write her resume then she set up a mock interview with Aliyah to test her interview skills. Dorothy pointed out she needed to sit up straight, use proper grammar, make eye contact, and have a list of questions prepared about the job. 

Aliyah came by the day of her interview to prepare with Dorothy and make sure she had the proper clothing. She went to her interview March 22, 2018. Wendy’s called her March 23, 2018, telling her she was hired. 

When asked how Aliyah felt about Families First she said, “I feel good when I walk through here, like I can get stuff done. I have a lot of people that support me.” 

Aliyah’s father Rodrick went on to say, “We are fortunate to have y’all available and in the community. It is amazing to see what Aliyah has achieved so far.” 

Aliyah started her first day March 25, and we are eager to catch up with her and see how she is doing. 


Harold (Jackson, MS) 

Harold came to the Families First Center in Jackson to receive help with his resume. He participated in the Job Readiness program. After working with the staff at the center, he now has a part-time job at Dollar Tree. Harold describes Families First as a good first step for getting your life back together. Harold chooses to dedicate his spare time twice a week to volunteering at the Families First Center in the clothing closet. He enjoys interacting with different people and helping others. Thank you Harold!


Michael Lesley, (Tupelo, MS) 

February 2018

House Fire – Michael Lesley and his family woke up to smoke and chaos Thursday night.  Michael, his wife, and four children ages 1 ½ to 20 years old made it out but nothing else. Figuring out the next step, they were referred to the Family Resource Center of North Mississippi to help them out. By noon, the Lesleys were in Tupelo picking out clothes from the center’s clothes closest, receiving funds to last them through the weekend and putting Mr. Lesley to work while they look for an apartment where FRC is covering the first three months’ rent. The family was also given a carseat through the FRC partnership with Toyota. “We want to thank the Family Resource Center for everything. We didn’t know what was going to happen after losing everything. We’re so appreciative.”


Jennifer Jones

January 2018

Dear Families First,

My name is Jennifer Jones. I am 41 years old. Although I could not have children of my own, I have been blessed to have raised many. I had the pleasure of adopting two daughters and just recently became a “Bonus Mom” to three beautiful girls. I call myself a “Bonus Mom” because there is such a negative connotation with the name “Step Mom”. I wanted these girls to see me as not their replacement mom, but as an extra person to love them unconditionally and be there no matter what. I thought I knew a lot about raising children until I took these parenting classes with my husband. I have learned more ways to better care for these girls. Our Instructor, Ms. Beverley Gonzalez, has made it fun and exciting to understand not only our girls’ needs but our needs as parents. My husband and I practiced new ways of communicating with them so they knew they were being listened to without judgment. We learned to read between the lines whether verbal communication was there or not. We even took class activities home with us to do with the girls and they actually really got into it! So I just wanted to thank y’all for everything you do. So many people would benefit from this class. I wanted to write a book on how this class has helped me. Thanks again. 


JaKayla (Lexington, MS)

Since being in parenting classes I have learned more about being an effective, productive and involved parent. I also learned that it’s most important to have a positive impact on your child. If you train up a child the way that you should, they will never go astray. I have been able to apply what I have learned into real life with my son and I am excited to learn more about being a better parent. I look forward to learning more about raising a young man.


Diane Washington, (Sunflower County)

Families First for Mississippi has provided me with the necessary tools for effective parenting. The classes are small, interactive, open, and applicable. I am grateful for every session and instructor. Each instructor offered positive words, hope, and insight. Assignments are challenging and life changing. If you want to improve your parenting skills, stop the yelling, balance your budget, manage your life...Start with FFFM. The tools work, the advice is true, the people are real. No judgements, no prying, no negatives.... just people helping people and helping families to thrive, survive, have courage and live in today's society. FFFM is a place where change, strength, and growth are present. I have worked with both with the Greenwood and Greenville teams. Each site is warm and friendly.


Shantriss Scott (Columbus, MS)

"I have enjoyed the program and have learned a few things. The program will help me in the future because I can go to school and finally go after my dreams. Having a diploma is more important than anything. The program is wonderful and you have to put your mind to it."


Melissa Cooper, (Courtland, MS)

This graduation means the world to me! It's really easy to explain. For many years, I have wanted to accomplish getting my high school diploma. There were a couple of times when I tried enrolling in the GED program, but I really didn't like it because the lessons were hard to understand.  I had lost my way in life and wasn't focused and for the last 10 years, I was in a very abusive marriage.  After my divorce, I begin to gain strength and begin to know my worth in life. I gave my life to the Lord and he began to open doors for me. One of the pastors told me about this program and I jumped on the band wagon. Once I started, it became my life and I worked day-in and day-out. I remember taking my vacation from work and spending that time working in my classes.   My son was very helpful and motivating me to continue working hard. He was so proud of me when I got my diploma, I went home and put both our diplomas side by side on the shelf. Even though I am super excited about having my physical diploma in my hands, it's nothing like walking that stage in my cap and gown! I have dreamed about this moment for a long time and I thank God, the Families First staff, and my teachers. As I sit here and type, I just laugh because I can't believe it. Thank you and the entire Families First program for this opportunity.  


Felicia Spraggins (Columbus, MS)

"I started NLRO program needing 15 classes. As of today, I have completed 11 of those. This program will allow me to improve my education and have a better life. I recommend this program to anyone who needs a diploma. I'm very excited and hope to ifnish by May!"

Lashundra Wooten (Batesville, MS)

I would like to thank Families First for giving me this opportunity to take this class. It was a second chance for me to get what I missed out on the first time. I want to thank my child who stood behind me 100%. I cried and prayed many nights when I first got started in this program about how this was the best thing that could have ever come my way. Now that I have finished I can continue to go to school or find me a better job so that I can support my family. Again, I say thank you to Families First. I could have not passed up this for nothing in the world! I have watched so many people in this world graduate, and I cried every time and would always say to myself one day it will be me. Now here I am giving joy to my own self. 


Tierney Givens (Southaven, MS)

 The vision of always having my diploma was a goal I set after coming out of high school. I never knew when or how I might achieve that goal. But I knew I wasn't going to stop till I have done so. It's almost like a dream come true. This diploma is a pass in my life, showing that I have accomplished a major goal in life, and I feel I have open many doors to great opportunities in the real world. I am so excited and tackled to the heart ;but also, if I haven't  meet a great friend, who motivated me, and gave me the extra push that I needed I possible wouldn't be in the brilliant program. The staff and mentors were very helpful and accessible in little or no time. With me having my diploma is only the beginning of the journey to meeting wonderful people and a bigger and brighter life.  Thank you to the Families first staff and mentors! 

Eric Scott is a former program participant. After successfully completing the program, he asked to volunteer to help other participants that have difficulty reading and writing. He initially came to Families First for assistance finding employment. Eric began the program in April 2017 and completed in June 2017, upon finding employment. He has volunteered since June 2017 and has become a fixture in the program. Eric reports to the fatherhood class (after he leaves work) and assist fathers with completing online employment applications. He also provides encouragement to those participants that feel discouraged and marginalized.   Eric is a father of two, a teenage daughter and young son. He has a positive attitude and a willingness to help whenever needed. Eric has also co-founded the Families First for MS Men's Support group. He actively promotes the fatherhood program and other services in the community. Eric is a joy to work with and a welcomed addition to the program. Thank you, Eric.

-Frank Wynn, Fatherhood Coordinator



Antonia Briones is a married Hispanic female that has been in the Tupelo area for the last 6 years.  She moved her with her family because of her husband’s work.  Antonia learned of the Toyota Family Learning class her at the Family Resource Center through her ESL class.  Antonia has an 8 year old Oscar, 5 year old Elisabeth, and 2 year old Diego.  She states that learning English is important to her so she can help her children with their homework, understand what’s going on at school, and understand the doctor when she goes and takes her children.  When asked about the TFL program she stated it has helped her with her English and also shown her new ways to help her children.  She states she has learned that words are everywhere and she can teach her children multiple words with just one word.  She states she now uses signs on the street to teach her children about words and colors and a trip to the grocery store can be educational.  Not only is she learning to help her children but she also states she has gained so much support from the staff and other participants in the class.  Antonia has been very active in class and has even recruited some friends to come with her.  She states this program has built her confidence being around English speaking people and helps her to be a better parent.  “This program is very interesting and I’ve learned many things in this program to help my children”.



Kimberly Ledbetter is a 32 year old single mother that has been attending the program since October 2016.  Kim has a 6 year old daughter who was born prematurely and has some hearing loss as a result.  When Kim entered the program she talked about her struggles with homework and Addison’s behavior.  Since being in the program Kim states she feels better equip with how to handle homework time and behaviors.  She states she has also seen an increase in reading scores at school and less resistance during reading time.  Kim states she has learned different ways to interact with her child and how important it is to get on her level when she talking to her.  She states the program has also exposed not only her child but herself to different cultures.  “As a parent you think you have it all together then you learn you have to get on their level and bring it down to them.  Since I’ve learned that her lights have changed in school and her behavior is much better”.  Kim has been one of our most consistent parents with coming to the program and volunteering to talk with others about the benefits of the program.  Kim has now secured a full time job as an administrative secretary for a local mental health center and is   maintaining on her own as a single parent.   



Hi, my name is Alejandro, and I am the proud dad of a handsome eight-year old boy. He is in the second grade, and is totally crazy about superheroes.  I met him for the first time when he was five years old, and since then, I have been developing my bond with him. He lives with his mom in another state, and I can visit him one weekend a month.  To see him, I have to take two flights, frequently I have run “frantically” to catch my next flight on time, or be prepared for obnoxious delays and gate changes. Sometimes I am very sad about being a long distance parent. I cannot see my son every morning, I cannot take him to the school, nor helping him with his daily homework. I cannot even see him brushing and flossing his teeth every night.  Those “little things” and those “everyday moments” that other parents may take for granted, for me are precious, and especial, yes… every single second that I spend with my son is precious, and special.  Three years ago, when I met my son, I was full of fears, insecurities, and puzzled with a lot of questions, in few words… I didn’t know how to be a father! Fortunately, I was referred to take active co-parenting classes at the Mississippi Community Education Center (MCEC), after I concluded my co-parenting classes, I participated in their Families First for Mississippi parenting and fatherhood programs, and that really made the difference! My experience at Families First for Mississippi has been wonderful. All the staff at the MCEC has been very supportive, especially my instructor. I received a great orientation on different aspects of parenting and fatherhood.  I had the opportunity to interact with other parents, that I am sure by now are wonderful parents. I have so many reasons to be grateful to the staff of the MCEC. Being a parent is not an easy task, being a long distance parent is even harder, and I know that I will never be “the perfect father”.  However, Families First for Mississippi, helped me to be the best dad I can be for my “little superhero”.



The Fatherhood Initiative program has helped me with my inner feelings with my daughter, nieces, and nephews.  I’ve also gained a better understanding of the depths of issues concerning my family, my personal health, and family members.  I look forward to attending future classes to enhance my life and the people around me. - Mardis Jones



Hello my name is Martel Stevenson.  The Fatherhood Initiative program has immensely improved my communication skills with my two kids and it has helped me realize how important children need fathers in their lives.  It also has helped me improve my relationship with my wife and immediate family.  -Martel Stevenson



Hello my name is Curley Matthews.  The program has impacted my life in a meaningful way.  The program is a great access to the younger fathers in the community.  During class, our older fathers share their knowledge with the younger fathers during our sessions.  Not only have I gotten a better understanding of fatherhood, and a better understanding of communication with my children and family, while attending classes I have formed a relationship with the director of housing for Tunica county and my home was added to the rehabilitation list for elderly citizens for a free rehabilitation. -Curley Matthews



Hello Mondrell Boykins. I’m a recent enrollee of the Fatherhood Program and since enrolled, I have improved my relationship with my oldest son and his mother.  As I continue to attend classes, hopefully my relationships with the mothers of my other children will get stronger.  -Mondrell Boykins



Hello. My name is Tavaris Reed. The Fatherhood Initiative Program has been great at helping me become a better father to my child. I have only been a full-time father for only 2 years. Let me start by giving you how it all changed. I became a father to a beautiful baby girl at the age of 26 years old. My daughter’s mother and I were never married. However, we were great parents to our daughter Chandlyr. At this time, I was living in Birmingham, Alabama; which is the same city as my daughter. I must say it was a struggle to help raise a child not living in the same house. In order to make sure my daughter had what she needed to live, I had to make some sacrifices. One of the sacrifices was moving from Birmingham, AL to Memphis, TN for a better job opportunity. This opportunity would allow me to provide a better living for my child. In October of 2015, I received a call from Birmingham, AL stating Chandlyr’s mother had passed away. Immediately, my mind started wondering how I was going to be a full-time dad and work. With the help of my family and the Fatherhood Initiative Program, I was able to adapt to this sudden lifestyle change. William Walton was great at providing the tools necessary for this change. Without this program, I believe it would have been hard to make the adjustment. -Tavaris Reed



I really enjoyed attending the fatherhood class with my father.  The men spoke about issues that I am going through right now and they gave good positive advice.  Whenever I am in town again I will make sure I attend the next meeting. -Bishop Temple



Every meeting I have attended has been a great experience.  I get the opportunity to listen to younger men from the community and the problems they may have.  I share my thoughts and ideas on their experiences and I share as well.  I have also had the pleasure of attending a class with my son and he shockingly opened up about his thoughts and personal experiences.  Overall, I enjoy the Fatherhood program and plan to attend regularly when times permits. -Kerry Temple



"I'm very happy compared to when I started this class. It has helped me build better relationships with my kids and spouse. I understand them better now." - Parenting Class Participant



"My class trainer is very knowledgeable. She is smart and very helpful with her answers and the material we go over." -— Parenting Class Participant



"Hope all is well. I was just emailing you to update you on things that are going on with me. I got married on March 1st, to my child's mother. We moved into a 3 bedroom home here in Jackson. I'm still working for MPIC as a warehouse associate, soon to be manager. Thank you again for taking out the time to educate us young brothers. What you do is appreciated and very important to our generation.  I encourage you to keep doing what you are doing. Your job is one of the most important jobs in this area. Thank you again and I pray that God will bless you in a mighty way." - Fatherhood Class Participant



Jadasha B. and Raheen L. began attending parenting classes on April 25th, 2017.  They were not court ordered, but advised by their lawyer to attend.  Their children had been removed from the home they were sharing with Jadasha's mother due to activities of the home owner.  Jadasha and Raheen have been reunited with their children and moved into their own apartment.



George B. came to the Biloxi Families First Resource Center to receive help with job skills  He needed assistance with computer skills as well.  In our conversations with George, we discovered that he qualified for the Senior Employment Program offered by SMPDP.  We called the office and set up an appointment for him.  He is now on his way to securing employment through the Senior Employment Program.



LaToya M. was referred to us by the WIN job center.  She is physically handicapped and was having a difficult time attending GED classes.  Tiffany visited LaToya in her home to conduct an intake interview.  LaToya is now enrolled in NLRO, and touches base with us at least once weekly to update us on her efforts.  Tiffany Dillard, Families First Trainer, goes to LaToya's home to proctor exams.



Lahoma L. visited the Biloxi Families First Resource Center on June 12th, 2017.  Lahoma was looking for workforce readiness assistance.  However, in our conversations with Lahoma, we discovered that she had mdical issues that were going unaddressed due to a lack of funds.  We were able to connect Lahoma with St. Vincent de Paul Pharmacy to receive assistane with her medication, and with Coastal Family Health for physician's care.



Semia D. and Jamahad R. are were third graders at Jefferson School reading on a 2.0 and below reading level.  Through the Phoenix Project and partnership with Families First for Mississippi, both students have shown significant growth and passed the Third Grade Reading State Test.  Darion B. is a third-grade student and was reading at a Pre-School level.  He is currently reading at a K-1st grade level.



Ashley W. and Justin Y. were seniors at Jefferson County High School.  Both students needed to pass the Algebra State Test to graduate. After attending after-school programs with the Phoenix Project (in partnership with Families First), both students passed their state test and will be graduating.

© FFFM is a service provided by Mississippi Community Education Center & Family Resource Center of North Mississippi

Mississippi Community Education Center

2525 Lakeward Dr. Suite 200

Jackson, Mississippi 39216

O: (601) 366-6405


Family Resource Center of North Mississippi

425 Magazine St.

Tupelo, MS 38804

O: (662) 844-0013


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Families First For Mississippi does not discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, color, national origin, sex, disability, veteran status, political beliefs, religion, sexual orientation, or age in the administration of any of its programs or in the employment of any staff.