Beauty From Ashes – EC Alumna Spotlight on Leslie McFarlin

Growing up, Emmanuel College was Leslie McFarlin’s playground. Living a stone’s throw away from campus, she and her siblings felt a part of the college community because they grew up walking the hills. 

Following graduation from Franklin County HS, Leslie attended Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College for a semester before transferring home to Emmanuel. 

She didn’t realize how much of a role the Emmanuel community would play in her story. 

At 19, Leslie ended up married and pregnant, and her Emmanuel story was put on hold.

“I ended up having to withdraw from school,” she remembered. “My parents were a big help to me, but I wanted to do things on my own. I would have to withdraw until I could save up enough for daycare services to go back to school.”

Fast-forward to 1999, Leslie enrolled at Emmanuel again, this time as a mother of two.  

“I was struggling,” she said. “I was a victim of domestic violence during that time and am proud to say that I am a domestic violence survivor.”

It was then that Leslie found her people in the School of Education. 

“I found friends,” she said. “I found people who loved my family.”

This was a group that she leaned on when she needed it most.

“In July of 1999, I was sitting in Joyce Taylor’s English class in the Aaron building when I heard footsteps coming down the hall that I recognized as my dad’s,” Leslie remembers. “He was there to tell me that my husband had committed suicide. In April, we had lost our home to a fire, I had nothing as far as possessions, but I had my children.” 

After she picked herself off the floor, Leslie promised herself that she would do her best for herself and her family.

During that difficult time, Leslie saw God’s grace on full display through her professors, Dr. Vicky Hollinshead, Ken Peden and Dr. C.Y. Melton, and friends at Emmanuel, and she witnessed God turn beauty from ashes in her life.

“You don’t ever know what someone is going through,” she said. “Honestly, I was struggling. I was hiding bruises. I know young people were caught up with their own experiences, but sometimes there’s a ministry opportunity walking beside them to class or sitting next to them in the dining hall. There are many opportunities to show Christ’s grace and love that aren’t necessarily in a foreign country, but it can be sitting in the classroom with them.

Leslie graduated from Emmanuel in 2002 with honors and taught at Franklin County Middle School for five years. After obtaining her Master of Mathematics Education degree, Leslie taught for 8.5 years at North Georgia Technical College before moving into an administrative role.

Currently, she serves as NGTC’s Vice President for Economic Development, a role that allows her to touch the lives of students, but members of the community as well.

“I work in the non-credit segment of our college,” she explained. “I supervise our adult education program, business and industry training and more. Our department also helps local economic development personnel and Chambers of Commerce, court businesses and draw them to our communities and service areas.”

One thing her department does, that Leslie and her coworkers treat as a ministry, is their work at Lee Arrendale State Prison. 

“We offer welding training and a cosmetology program inside the facility,” she said. “Offenders are given the opportunity to gain valuable skills for when or if they are released, they are less likely to offend again because they have a marketable field.”

For Leslie, this part of her role hits home.

“I look at those ladies and think, that could have been me,” she said. “If I didn’t have the family support and support of my friends and EC community, I could have been there. These women are mothers and sisters. It’s become a ministry for our department to provide workforce training for them to make life better for themselves.”

Something that Leslie keeps in mind is that we are all deserving of His grace.

“It may sound cliché, but what would Jesus do? Where would He be?” she asked. “I didn’t do anything to earn his grace, and those ladies didn’t do anything to put themselves out of the reach of his grace.”

Emmanuel will always hold a special place in Leslie McFarlin’s heart. Not only did her time at EC springboard her career, but she found a family in the School of Education, and that meant more than anything.

Leslie now resides in Carnesville with husband, James McFarlin, who she married in 2002. Together they have three children, Dylan (28), Cari (25), and Alex (23).