Angela Owens – Steering Teens Away from Harm

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Photo by Leita Cowart

Angela Owens. (Photo by Leita Cowart)


by Kysa Anderson Daniels

It’s a rare exception that Angela Owens misses her Thursday appointment at the Fulton County Juvenile Court in southwest Atlanta. She shows up early with an easy smile and big hug for the half dozen or more teenage girls who come for weekly group sessions.


Most are juvenile probates, and all are considered high risk for becoming victims of sex trafficking. By court and other referrals, they participate in “Voices,” a program aimed at keeping girls out of the grip of prostitution and sex traffic.


“Voices” is an initiative headed by youthSpark, the Atlanta-based agency dedicated to ending child sex trafficking through prevention, early intervention and youth-focused education. And, it’s here that Owens has found a home—volunteering as a program ambassador, fundraiser and mentor.


“She’s been a very valuable part of our team,” says Jennifer Swain, youthSpark deputy director and Voices creator. “We don’t even pay her, and she just keeps showing up.”


Owens, a student at Georgia Perimeter College’s Decatur Campus, volunteers because she understands some of the experiences of the participants. Her early life was difficult. She knows the impact of being molested as a child, being a pregnant teen, struggling with drug use and serving time behind bars.


“I can relate,” the Alabama native says.


Owens also pours a lot of heart and compassion into her mentor role. “I just like working with people who seem to be cast away,” she says. “But they’re special too.”


Although Owens says her past life’s troubles seem like only yesterday, she is on a positive track these days. Last year, months before turning 50, the mother of two enrolled at GPC to study social work. Since then, she’s maintained a high GPA (currently 3.62), been accepted into the Alpha Beta Gamma chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, a national honor society, and received a scholarship from the Assistance League of Atlanta.


“She takes school very seriously,” her husband, Herman Owens, says. “When the math was giving her problems … my wife didn’t give up. She was determined to do that math.”


Owens will take a third class this fall from English and humanities professor Dr. Shawn Williams. “What I like about Angela is that she takes advantage of everything she needs to help her,” Williams says.


Owens often seeks assistance from Georgia Perimeter tutors working through TRIO, a program aimed at boosting retention and graduation rates for first-generation college students like her. She believes what she’s doing in the classroom can inspire others, like her daughter (who’ll begin at Georgia Perimeter this fall), and even the young women she mentors.


“I want them to think, ‘OK, this is available to me, too,’ ” Mrs. Owens says.


Eventually, Owens plans to earn a master’s degree and open a safe house for young girls. She also hopes to expand her custom dress and hair bow line for little girls. Her mother, Mavis Smith, has no doubt she’ll accomplish her dreams.


“I thank the Lord that he planted people in her life who make her want to be a servant to mankind,” Smith says.

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