By Heidi Glaus
St. Louis, MO (KSDK) - When it comes to stories, Cynthia Stevenson-Johnson's doesn't exactly read like a fairy tale.
"A lot of drugs, a lot of what we call hustling, fast money," Stevenson-Johnson says about her past.
She grew up in a family where teenage pregnancy was the norm and lessons were only learned the hard way.
"Most of my life I was incarcerated in city jails or county jails, but I went to prison at the age of 45 years old," Stevenson-Johnson says.
The parole board sent her to long term treatment and slowly things started to turn around. She also discovered Let's Start, a not-for-profit started by Sr. Jackie Toben, that lends support to women in transition from prison life back into society.
"I knew I wanted something different, I didn't know what to do to get that something different," Stevenson-Johnson says.
So Cynthia and women in similar shoes meet weekly.
"I learned that honesty, it starts with me," says one woman.
They meet to not only support each other, but to learn from each other.
"See coming up all I knew was chaos and confusion and that was love in my household," Stevenson-Johnson shares with the group.
These days, she leads the support group.
"Cynthia has lived the experience of addiction, she's lived the experience of imprisonment, she has totally changed her life in a positive and nomadic way that she is a role model for the woman coming out of prison," Sr. Toben says.
She also coordinates bus trips for children to visit their moms in prison and is an advocate for women without a voice. Most importantly, however, she offers hope.
"I've got 17 years and eight months," she says proudly.
She is also proof it's never too late to rewrite a happy ending to your own story.
There's a simple way you can help Let's Start, Thursday evening at 6:30 p.m. Denise Thimes will perform a special show at The Sheldon Concert Hall that will benefit the not-for-profit. Tickets are $70 and to learn more check out the related link.