Bride on a Mission

February 18, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
A Coalinga native turned law school graduate got national attention after telling her story of overcoming life on the streets of Fresno.We first met Carissa Phelps last year right before she graduated with a double master's degree in law and business from UCLA.

It was an impressive accomplishment for a former runaway who was living on the streets of Fresno at the age of 12 involved in both drugs and prostitution.

"I didn't have tears when we picked it out but I do today!"

This week the 31 year old is getting married and settling in Fresno. She left a job earning $200,000 a year in Los Angeles to start-up a Fresno non-profit to help improve the area around Roeding Park and Motel Drive.

"I didn't come back to make friends, I didn't come back to make money, I came back to empower a community."

She's starting by handing out fliers to neighbors against a proposal to put a female rehabilitative center at the former Hacienda Hotel.

Carissa's life story is being told in an upcoming documentary and it's gained national attention, from an appearance on Good Morning America to an upcoming story in USA Today. She's hoping the attention and her business background will bring donors to Fresno.

Carissa says, "In the end, I could have done this documentary and said Fresno is horrible, Motel Drive is horrible, Parkway Drive is horrible and left it all the same. "With this I get to prove that going back to school, learning the things I've learned, having the network I have, actually can make a difference."

Carissa even has a song named after her and she's planning on writing a book.

But she's not planning a big wedding. "Because I didn't want to plan a wedding; I'm trying to plan a community."

The honeymoon will be short. Carissa plans to be back in Fresno next Tuesday so she can attend a city council meeting on the Hacienda Project.


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