FT LAUDERDALE —Many people dream of dedicating their lives to helping others and making a real, meaningful difference in this world. Yahalia Franklin does not just dream. Since relocating from Chicago to escape an abusive husband, Franklin has been working hard every day to create the change she envisions.

“There’s a need to restore compassion, love and peace in our local communities. And the best way to make change is to begin with small steps,” said Franklin, who started all over in South Florida with her three daughters. For years, she worked in the healthcare field and focused on raising her children.

In 2011, she accepted her daughters’ challenge to further her education by enrolling at Broward College to pursue a degree in psychology, studying what she is most passionate about – helping people. Although her journey as a non-traditional student with responsibilities outside of the classroom had challenges, Franklin never gave up, receiving her associate in arts in psychology on Dec. 18.

“Growing up, I didn’t think I was smart enough, even though everyone around me thought I was intelligent. Self-esteem is a killer of dreams, but I took it one day at a time and told myself ‘finish what you started Yali – you can do it.’ Then, I got stronger and stronger, kept going, and never gave up,” said Franklin.

Keeping her head high and focusing on the idea that change really does happen one step at a time, Franklin extended her passion for helping others outside of the classroom, becoming very involved on campus. In 2013, Franklin was elected president of the Alpha Delta Rho chapter of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. While president, she became a three-time top ten volunteer for HandsOn Broward.

In 2014, she became the president of the on-campus ASPIRA organization, which focuses on empowering the community through advocacy, education and leadership of its youth. She also participated in numerous volunteer opportunities, including coordinating a clothes drive for the Jubilee Center, a local community center that assist the homeless with food and clothes, as well as participating in food banks and numerous charity walks. Recently, she was awarded the Golden Rule International Award and the Global Leadership Award, which is given to those who impact their community positively by improving others’ quality of life through humanitarian leadership.

Franklin challenged herself to follow through on a dream, and became the creator and owner of 4-My Angels, LLC, a transportation company that provides services to families to visit their loved ones in penitentiaries and detention centers. “So many people in jail lose hope, love and self-worth, and leave their families behind – broken, confused and lost. Despite their errors, they still need love and support,” Franklin shared.

Franklin plans to continue her studies in psychology, as well as expand 4-My Angels. Ultimately, her main goal is to assist battered women and men, children of all ages and others in the community.

“One of my philosophies is to live out my given purpose, face my fears and never beat myself down about my errors because they’ve made me stronger,” said Franklin. “To anyone in a similar situation, I would say finish what you started – it’s not a cliché. If you drop out, you’re choosing to give up on your future. Stay the course and choose to be the best you can be.”