A car pulls up to a motionless figure lying on the street. As the car gets closer the driver screeches to halt and realizes it is a person, who looked as if they were a victim of a hit and run accident. The driver gets out of the vehicle and starts yelling.
A local resident runs out of the house from across the street to find out what all of the commotion was and “found this poor lady practically having a stroke.”
This is when the local resident realizes her son and his friends were up to their usual schemes when she saw their heads pop up from their hiding places in the bushes.
The motionless figure turned out to be nothing more than a life-sized dummy of a man.
This was just one of the many practical jokes that Graham Austen, a Pierce College student, would perform with his friends.
“In spite of all the misguided and inappropriate pranks, the marathon arguments, disrespect, and general malcontent, Graham’s good heart won out in the end,” said Austen’s mother, Kathy Ann Austen.
Austen turned his life around after getting back in touch with his religious roots.
“I was raised in faith and it was always part of me since I was young, but I didn’t always follow it,” said Austen.
During his teenage years Austen didn’t have much focus when it came to anything other than himself. He was expelled from high school and ended up going to continuation school.
“At one point he seriously wanted to legally change his middle name to Trouble,” said Kathy Ann.
At the age of 17 he got his General Equivalency Diploma (GED) and got out of school early.
“When I was a teenager I was really into graffiti,” Austen said. “My friends and I used to run on freeways and on the sides of buildings putting graffiti on things.”
Looking back on his life, now at the age of 31, Austen believes he is “much more content” in life now that he has religion. Not only is he more grateful, but he is also satisfied with the simpler things in life.
After his brother was killed by a drunk driver, it got him reflecting on life and his priorities.
“It had me asking the questions where did I come from and where am I going,” said Austen. “So I started searching for answers more in depth than I did before.”
He then turned towards a religious path where he chose The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where he was able to change his life around.
“A lot of people refer to us as Mormons, but a lot of people have misconceptions that we’re not Christian,” said Austen. “The church is the Church of Jesus of Latter-day Saints after all, but when they hear the nickname they think of other stuff.”
While Austin was raised a Mormon, he insists that isn’t why he ended up choosing this faith later in life.
“My younger brother was raised that way and he is an Atheist now,” said Austen.
Austen is now a family man with two daughters. He attends church every Sunday and even has taught children.
His lessons would cover a variety of things, for example lectures about honesty, keeping the commandments, and learning about the scriptures.
“It made me happy to [teach],” said Austen. “Before I might have shied away from it.”
After taking many years off of school, Austen finally got back into the mode in 2009.
He currently attends Pierce College with hopes to transfer to California State University Los Angles to get a degree in criminal justice. He has a 4.0 grade point average and has been on the Dean’s List for the past two semesters.
“I didn’t think I’d excel in school when I came here,” said Austen. ” I just kind of took a leap of faith.”
Austen’s secret for obtaining such a high GPA is following God’s commandment by keeping the Sabbath day holy.
“I know [God] blessed me with things I didn’t have, like my attention span is better, I’m able to focus and memorize things, and I’m able to manage my time efficiently,” said Austen.
Even though God may bless us, Austen believes that God also expects us to do our part.
Not only has his academic career improved drastically, but his personal relationships and the way he views life has also changed.
“After getting more involved with religion I got closer to my family and friends,” said Austen. “I weeded out the people in my life who were negative influences.”
While Austen believes religion has strengthened his personal relationships, Justin Ranes, Austen’s long time friend says that Austen “has always been a trustworthy and loyal friend.”
Although Austen was once a rebellious teenager, he now finds purpose due to religion. He considers himself to once be a “self-centered” person, but now is able to see the world in a different way.
“I still have challenges and struggles with a lot of things, but my thinking is different therefore my actions are different,” said Austen. “When I read the scriptures it touches me to the center of my heart where I knew it wasn’t my own understanding, something extra was making me understand things on a deeper level.”