I graduated from TFA in 1998 and the University of Florida in 2002 with a degree in Public Relations. After my first job, I realized I wanted to pursue a long time interest in design. I started my own garden design company in 2004, but by 2008, my hobby as a jewelry designer began to transition into a “real” career and I started Dora Mae Jewelry. We opened our first studio and gallery 2 years ago and are celebrating 10 years in business next month!
I have two precious kiddos – Cade (13) in 7th-grade at TFA and Haven (11) who will be coming to TFA next year for her 6th-grade year! TFA was always about the people – or more specifically, the family! First and foremost, I met my husband Jake in the 8th-grade at TFA! I am forever indebted to TFA for the love of my life! My 1998 Lady Royals Basketball Team recently got inducted into the TFA Athletic Hall of Fame for winning the first school state championship. When I saw the ceremony date, I realized we would be out of town and I’d have to miss it. But when I found out that my coaches would be flying in for the event, I immediately changed our travel schedule!!
TFA was never really about the awards or championships. It was about how much I was loved and taught and challenged and shaped as a person by the teachers and coaches who devoted not just their skills – but their LIVES – to their students and players. I walked away from TFA a different person because of Coach Larry Taylor, Jimmy Knott, Roy Heinz, and Ginger Milsaps. They were more than coaches – but like second dads and moms to me. They created an environment of sisterhood – of family – for that first state championship team. I’m glad TFA pursues excellence and wins championships. But the championship didn’t change my life. The coaches did.
Jake and I attend Summit Church and are involved in the church counseling ministry known as ReGroup. However, it’s been my jewelry business that has afforded me the most opportunity to continue living the “service before self” aspect of TFA’s mission. I traveled to Madagascar to train at-risk women in the jewelry making trade. Dora Mae Jewelry now employs 7 of those Malagasy women and is able to pay fair trade wages, allowing them out of the cycle of poverty and abuse. It has been the single most amazing (miraculous really!) experience and our weekly interactions with our partners there give us broader perspective and wisdom than we could ever attain on our own. They now make 90% of the chains we sell in our studio and gallery and we pray this partnership only grows in the years to come!