| Written by Sally Moore |
This spring, Kesia and Jon Smith went to the movies. Unplanned, the surprise, runaway 2019 hit, is a film outlining the true, stripped down journey of a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic director, Abby Johnson, who belatedly realized that these babies were not immune to excruciating pain during abortion. She walked away from her career and instead, became a vocal, Pro-life advocate.
After the movie, the Smith’s and their friends talked about the issues discussed in the shocking film. Kesia noted, “we were really convicted.” As Christians, she noted, they were all profoundly pro-life. “It’s one thing to believe something,” she stated, qualifying, “but, what were we really doing about it?” Kesia wanted to do something but, what was the right thing? The best thing?
As she told her story, Kesia recalled that “the main character in the movie, Abby Johnson had actually worked at the Planned Parenthood clinic, thinking that she was “helping” these women who were in crisis.” Abby Johnson has gone on to join Heartbeat International working now to save babies. The movement to do something definitive has truly begun on more than one front.
Unable to let the issue go or shake the conviction that she needed to take action, Kesia and Jon began to ask, “how can we help women who feel an abortion is their only option?” We started thinking about it, she reported. After some prayerful consideration, Kesia was given an idea. “It wasn’t my idea. It was all the Lord,” she gives all the credit to Jesus.
Kesia Smith grew up in a Christian home in North Port, Florida. Just 24 years old, she is a recent graduate with a degree in nursing from Pensacola Christian College and is now working as an Operating Room Registered Nurse at Wayne UNC Hospital. Her husband, Jon Smith is a 2nd Lieutenant Finance Operations officer in the Air Force. Still newlyweds, they are stationed at Seymour Johnson AFB near Goldsboro, North Carolina.
“Becoming a Registered Nurse takes a lot of commitment, time and money,” said Smith, trying to be strategic about her plans. The Smith’s aren’t wealthy and are just starting out life themselves. Kesia explained that while many career paths are prohibitively expensive or take years to complete, “getting Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) licensing doesn’t take a lot of money and it doesn’t take a lot of time.”
Smith knows whereof she speaks. She and Jon met when they attended a local, North Port technical high school and rode the same bus every day. At that time, Jon was studying bookkeeping and Kesia was on the nursing track. Upon graduation, Jon stepped into a job at H&R Block doing taxes, and saving money for college. As a junior in high school Kesia prepped for her CNA test. She passed, and as soon as she was old enough, began working during off hours during her senior year in high school, saving money to further her own educational goals.
The young couple, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, decided to personally fund a scholarship as an option for pregnant mothers who may not have a way to support themselves or a family. Excited to have the beginnings of a viable plan, Kesia knew it would work. “My own mother, already had one child at home and was a senior at Miami Dade Community College working on her nursing clinicals, when she discovered she was pregnant with me!”
Kesia doesn’t miss the irony. “My mom was able to graduate before I was born. Then, she got her CNA quickly and easily, even with two young children at home. She said this was a good option for her because the classes were flexible and the career itself paid well- and it was easier to find a job.” She added, “my mom got sick and had emergency surgery during the program and couldn’t finish the CNA class-but she was able tochallenge the test and get her nursing assistant certificate without finishing the CNA program.” Years later, Kesia’s mother still works as a nursing assistant.
Gerline and her husband, Paul Saint Fleur, a glass technician- view the option they decided on, as a rewarding one and a good one for any woman who is pregnant and looking for something that is flexible, that will provide for a family.
Certified Nursing Assistant licensing requirements vary from state to state. Wanting to give back to the community they were raised in, the Smith’s decided to set something up in North Port, Florida.
Kesia began looking around for a solid CNA School program to partner with and a good, pregnancy center willing to offer alternatives to young mothers. Florida, where a candidate can challenge the two step testing between classroom and clinical tests, enables students to expedite licensing within weeks- with only a $395 course fee and a state testing fee.
“Depending on what hours you choose and what type of facility you are hired, CNA’s, in Florida, can make between $11 and $17 an hour.” While not enough to fund an opulent lifestyle, Kesia noted, “you can support a little family on that. And, if you want to add one more course for $100, you can be a Med Tech, make a bit more, and also pass out pills at assisted living facilities.”
While various states do have different requirements for the classroom portion of the process, Smith notes that any of them would be easy for a newly pregnant mom to complete and get working well prior to her baby’s arrival.
First, Smith scouted around and found the best program in the area which also offered guaranteed job placement for their newly licensed students. Explaining her idea, the school was excited and supportive. Next she looked for the right pregnancy center.
Executive Director of Pregnancy Solutions, Lisa Rowe, picked up the story. “I knew Kesia from her High School. I was a teacher when she attended there. I had been the Teen Parent Program director at that time and also taught Early Childhood Development. Kesia was in that class.” Describing Kesia Smith as a “great student” who was passionate about nursing, Rowe recalled, “her faith was always really strong.”
“We had maintained a connection, on Facebook,” she noted. Kesia however, hadn’t realized that Rowe was now the director of North Port’s Pregnancy Solutions. “Kesia wanted to give something back to her home community, a community which Rowe explained has an average age of 42 and the average income sits at the poverty level. Rowe was enthusiastic when she heard about the innovative plan and was eager to partner on it with her former student.
“For us, this scholarship is an easy, natural addition to our program,” Rowe explained. Pregnancy Solutions, she noted, is an agency which explores and encourages “best life goals” for young mothers and fathers. “Kesia was assured that we are vetting these candidates and that those who accept the money are ready to move forward successfully. We know the clients, and can help them through the potential issues of transportation or child care before they are even accepted.”
“Although we have job supports with other agencies in the area,” Rowe said. “This Scholarship is special because it’s all in house.” She explained the mental debate a young mom might be experiencing in the midst of life-altering decisions. “It’s really hard to leave here and go to another organization and go through it all again, when you are trying to find some help and answers.”
“I think this is something really special,” exclaimed Rowe. “Someone who is unsure if they want to even keep this pregnancy, who is losing hope. Well, it is exciting because they don’t have to leave our office to find a real solution and get started.” (Candidates must be able to pass a State mandated background check to be licensed as a Certified Nursing Assistant and also have to be 18 years old which disqualifies some potential applicants.)
Once the plan was formalized, Kesia and Jon Smith, immediately began socking away savings toward funding this CNA Scholarship project. For others who may want to contribute, Smith reports, she doesn’t touch the money. Any donations should be directed to the Pregnancy Solutions Center at 14400 Tamiami Trail, Ste. D in North Port, Florida 34287 and just add to the memo line, CNA Scholarship fund.
The Smith’s saw the movie, Unplanned in April of 2019. By June, their innovative solution of a career-building scholarship plan was set in place with the help of Lisa Rowe at Pregnancy Solutions. On August 5, the first pregnant candidate, when offered this viable career option, decided against an abortion and instead chose LIFE and to begin building a life for her new family.
This plan is exquisitely simple. Though course requirements and costs may vary state to state, this is an easily duplicatable plan- and, with a few tweaks- could be implemented in any community in America. It isn’t rocket science either…offering young and often unprepared women a literal lifeline.
Blessings Through Action salutes and supports Jon and Kesia Smith for not just being Pro-Life, but for being pro-active in their Christian beliefs. Well done!