Growing up in a low-income neighborhood plagued by high crime rates does not exactly set the foundation for a fruitful beginning in life. Considering the inclusion of drugs, gang activity and limited opportunities, matched with a lack of positive role models, most people end up succumbing to their surrounding pressures and follow what they believe to be their predetermined life – are we predestined to become a product of our environment? Staff Sgt. Carrie Peasinger, public affairs specialist, 452 Air Mobility Wing, March Air Reserve Base, Calif., fought against becoming a product of her “challenged” upbringing and vowed to always strive forward and never fall back — she succeeded by “Aiming High,” enlisting in the U.S. Air Force – the first step in her pursuing her dreams.
Peasinger’s initial exposure to the Air Force happened during school lunch periods.
“There was always a recruiter posted in our lunch room,” said Peasinger. “They stood proudly advocating the mission of the U.S. Air Force and how service to country went both ways — you not only served in the U.S. Air Force, but the U.S. Air Force also served you. That in itself was enough to get me motivated because I knew that I did not want to end up like the others in my neighborhood – I did not want to become its product.
Peasinger enlisted in the active duty Air Force as a finance accounting liaison technician at then Brooks City-base, Texas. It did not take long for her to learn her daily tasks, which lead to her becoming confident and proficient in her job.
“I reached a point to where I was proudly serving my Air Force by providing the best financial services possible. Now, it is time to incorporate how the Air Force can serve me in my life-plan,” she explained.
Through encouragement from her supervisor-mentor, Peasinger was given many opportunities to get involved with the local community. Initially, she provided support to already-established local charities, but had aspirations of connecting with other agencies that shared her interests.
Using her passion for running, Peasinger began running five-kilometer races on Brooks City-base, where she eventually won first place. This accomplishment instilled an overwhelming sense of pride and self-worth in her that she had to share with others. The only challenge was taking her love of running and applying it toward helping others build self-esteem, especially young girls.
“I was coming to the end of my enlistment and I knew that I had to make some hard decisions,” said Peasinger. “Should I take a leap of faith and leave active duty to fully pursue my desire to help others, or play it safe and stand by for whatever came my way?”
Taking the leap of faith path, Peasinger left active duty and joined the Air Force Reserve as a public affairs technician – this satisfied another passion of hers, writing. Assigned to then, Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, she submitted an article entitled, “What a day in my life would look like five years from now,” which told of how she would use running to build self-esteem in young girls.
“Fate must have been looking for me because soon after submitting that article, I came across a similar story in a sports magazine that showed a woman jumping up in the air surrounded by a group of young girls doing the same,” she explained.
The woman featured in the article was Molly Barker, the founder of the non-profit program called, Girls on the Run, whose mission was to inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum, which creatively integrated running into the activities. The after school program focused on grades 3 to 5 and helped girls build values to later handle various situations such as bullying, negative portrayal of women in magazines and making healthy lifestyle and food choices.
“I had many struggles growing up and outside of church, I had few positive influences in my life, GOTR is something that would have been helpful for me,” said Peasinger.
Having found a cause that perfectly matched her passions, Peasinger moved to start her own chapter in Austin, Texas. However, after the first season, unforeseen family circumstances took her back to her home of record, but not before laying down the groundwork to get the program running.
“The program is still operating strong in numerous schools in the Austin area. Coming from a rough background to operating a successful non-profit organization for the sheer passion of it, is a dream come true. I did not have any experience, I did not go to school for non-profit management, but I had a dream. I wanted to help girls like myself who aren’t born into good circumstances and have people telling them they will never amount to anything; I wanted to help them realize that anything is possible with a foundation of good morals, hard work and determination,” said Peasinger.
Having benefited from her service with the regular Air Force, Peasinger continues to serve her country as she readies herself for the next challenge in her life – self-improvement from within.