Stories of Hope: 'He Made a Choice to RISE'

The following article is part of a series of real stories of how United Way of Southeast Mississippi nonprofit partners have helped local citizens.

By Jonah S. Taylor

When 22-year-old Patrick was introduced to RISE, he was quiet and withdrawn. In fact, because of years of abuse and trauma, he was essentially mute.

Growing up, Patrick had a very difficult and unstable home life. He had a transient childhood going from home to home, survived abuse and neglect, and witnessed violent crimes - causing him to suffer from long-term trauma. Patrick tried to leave his traumatic past behind and focus on his future. He even went on to graduate junior college. But the effects of the abuse and trauma he experienced in his younger years began to present in his adult life. 

While he was continuing to pursue his college degree, Patrick suffered a nervous breakdown and had to drop out of college. He sought professional help and he got it, but he still needed help, financially, getting back on his feet. That’s when he was introduced to RISE.

Formerly known as the Pine Belt Christian Women’s Job Corp, RISE is a Hattiesburg-based 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to educating, empowering and encouraging others to become self-sufficient.

“RISE teaches financial stability to all of our participants. We believe that through education, career building and financial stability training, we can help our community ‘RISE’,” said the organization’s Executive Director, Catherine Jorns.

Jorns said through the support and funding of United Way of Southeast Mississippi, they have been able to reach more people who could benefit from their services, like Patrick.

“Each dollar that is donated through UWSEMS allows RISE to offer hope and opportunity to those that had lost all hope,” said Jorns. “They never thought they would ever be able to own a home or have a college education. They thought those things were for other people.”

Funds from United Way of Southeast Mississippi go towards the purchase of course materials and curriculum at RISE. Not only is this curriculum provided to students, but grant funds are also used to support RISE's efforts to transport students to and from class, as well as to other critical appointments to gain employment. In addition, funds allow for some capacity building for the nonprofit through the purchase of new computers for students to work on.

“UWSEMS takes much needed time researching the needs of our community to get to the core of what will work. Then they coordinate the efforts of the nonprofit organizations to address those needs of the community without duplicating services. And they help us utilize organizations that would sometimes be out of reach for many of the nonprofits. All of this to strengthen our community,” Jorns said.

During his time in the financial stability course at RISE, Patrick began to thrive. He not only excelled at his own work but also helped his fellow students complete their work. After years of struggles brought on by long-term trauma, Patrick had found a motivation to keep going and as a result, found his voice again. The RISE team soon learned that Patrick loved to sing; and the young man who first walked through those doors unable to speak went on to lead his graduating class in song at their ceremony.
Today, Patrick has his own apartment, a job, a car, and attends college online. He is even in a relationship and is active in his church.

Jorns said, “We are so proud of the person that Patrick became because he made a choice to RISE.”

For more about RISE or how to access their services, call (601) 544-4855 or visit them at

RISE is an Economic Mobility Partner of United Way of Southeast Mississippi, a local nonprofit that strives to create positive change in Forrest, Lamar, Marion and Perry counties. By providing funds to partnering agencies, United Way addresses community issues in the areas of education, economic mobility, health and support services.