Leah Blevins is pink-haired and bright-lipped, with a sweet voice and a permanent smile. She is gentle and warm - has the kind of presence that puts anyone at ease. You would never know that Leah has experienced what many adults never will.
At 18 years old, she found herself pregnant and alone. She'd dropped out of high school and it seemed her story had been written - that she was destined for a life of struggle.
She wasn't. In fact, she was destined for a life of triumph.
"Leah is the kind of person who, right when you meet her, you realize has an incredible depth," said Brooke Myers, Founder and Executive Director of Together Tulsa. "I was immediately amazed by her. She takes hardship in stride and uses it to strengthen herself and her resolve to do great things with her life - for herself and for her daughter."
Leah had always been interested in the arts and writing but didn't see a pathway to a career in that. When she got to be part of SPIRE's mini-fellowship in photojournalism through the Summer Parent Academy coordinated by J.A.M.E.S. Inc., however, she got to put her artsy inclinations toward a potential career - a career she could really own.
"I knew immediately that Leah had a knack for using the camera," said Brooke. "The way she composed her pictures - after just one lesson from our professional photography coach, Jordan Garrett [of JAG Digital] - it was just incredible. Like, that is raw talent."
Not only was she inherently talented in photography, but she had an impressive way with words. "We all have a story, but sometimes it's hard to find the words to tell it," Leah said. "When you have someone encouraging you to talk about it, it becomes easier to talk about."
And Leah would know. In her short 20 years on this earth, she has lived a complex story. After dropping out of high school and having a child by 19, she enrolled in Margaret Hudson, graduated, and now works tirelessly toward her dream of becoming a business owner and the best mother she can be.
Her experience in SPIRE gave Leah the skills she needed to make her dream a reality. "Now, I have my own photography business called Grayson Rose Photography," she said. "The names are both my daughter's middle name and my middle name. With my business, I do what I have to do. I love people and nature, so it makes it easy to manage my business."
J.A.M.E.S. Inc. gifted Leah a professional Canon camera, which she uses now for her photography business.
"Leah is proof to me that what we do at Together Tulsa really is life-changing," said Brooke. "After just 11 days in our SPIRE fellowship, she is now a photographer and a business-owner. She didn't need a college degree to get there, either. She just needed professional coaching and specialized skills and tools - and now she is in control of her life and her career. It's beautiful. I am so proud of her."
Grayson Rose Photography is open for business. Leah photographs families, engagements, babies and more. With limited editing because of her brilliant use of natural lighting and leading lines, Leah's photos look raw and candid.
"I hope the future holds good things for me," said Leah. "My goal in life is to reach happiness and maintain happiness ... for both my daughter and myself. I hope that my photography business only grows more and more."
And that is a dream of Leah's that you can help make happen. Go to www.graysonrosephotos.wixsite.com/graysonrosephotos or email her at email@example.com to book!