By Deanna McGill | Photography by Julie Bird | Shot on location at Central Church of Christ
Strength is typically measured by physical power, mental fortitude and unwavering patience. Rarely is strength defined by what is missing. However, the journey and perspective of Travis Leon Harris proves otherwise. He believes his achievements are a result of what he lacked during this childhood. “It’s the things that I didn’t have that inspire me to be the best person I can be,” Travis explains.
Travis lived in what was considered one of the most dangerous crossroads in the country – 15th and Peyton Streets in Little Rock. Infamously recognized as a rough neighborhood, it was anything but an ideal location for a family to consider home. Despite feelings of isolation + helplessness, Travis focused on his future. “I understood it’s not where you started, but how you finish – even though opportunities were few and far between, and we were more likely to be dead or in jail than go to college.” He recognized these obstacles made him stronger.
Centers for Youth & Families provided hope and opportunity for Travis. Through its leadership program Shepherds Ranch, he realized alternatives to a hopeless future. The organization offers guidance for children and families – specifically during adolescence. That proved to make a BIG difference for decisions that Travis made. While his peers were not making positive choices – as a result of trying to survive poverty – Travis embraced the values of Shepherds Ranch and CFYF: family, respect, excellence and hope.
Travis remembers the mentors in the program that encouraged him to lead a life of example for others who might feel isolation and helplessness. “Much of what we do or don’t do is because of our mindset, whether it’s what we think of ourselves or what we allow others to put in our mind.”
At the Central Church of Christ, Travis serves as pastor and works closely with the youth groups offering encouragement and a vision for a bright future. His wife and three children provide daily inspiration. “I am forever grateful to Centers for Youth & Families – it’s a big reason why I want to help others as much as I can. My goal is to be the person I needed as a teen.”
Each year, EVOLVE celebrates the evolution of the organization’s continued mission fulfillment work. Chairmen Becky & Mark Allison will welcome guests to an entertaining evening of the Capital City’s rendition of NBC’s The Voice – featuring musical acts by local artists in a fun + friendly competition. A highlight of the evening is recognition of the Champions of Hope – the CFYF youth leadership program – for their hard work and dedication creating a better community. This volunteer society provides young men an opportunity to serve as stewards of CFYF and change their perspective – much like Travis realized his full potential through Shepherds Ranch.