I am happy to say that I've been busy. In fact, I'm balancing the demands of a full-time demanding job, settling into a new three-bedroom home, and still finding time to participate in prosocial activities with friends and to strengthen family bonds. I have a good life, which is even more incredible considering that just three years ago I was still in prison.
So how did I do it? I found and benefited from opportunities, thanks in large part to a series of changes which began for me in prison and continued after I walked out the prison gate. The process started with rehabilitative groups and job training that I took part in in prison after I made a decision to change, then went on to include high quality coaching and career building workshops I participated in as a member of Defy Ventures' Post Release Programs. I could not have made the leaps that I made on my own. When I left prison, I did not know how to navigate the world. That's where Defy's post-release programs helped a lot. I participated in their LinkedIn workshop, the networking events, credit building workshops, multiple resume building workshops, and countless coaching sessions that brushed up my interview skills. Each event helped me to gain knowledge and confidence.
The knowledge I gained from the resume building, cover letter, and interview skills workshops helped me land a job with the Amity Foundation, as a Demonstrator at their large re-entry campus in Los Angeles. There I helped the men on my caseload to make successful transitions from number to name. My job was to provide counseling which helped them transition into productive roles in the community. I gave them the same information which had worked for me. I told them to focus on laying their foundation and stressed the importance of building a positive support network. I referred them to state programs, Defy Ventures, and ARC. Often, I shared phrases like, "Your network is your net worth" which I'd heard first hand from Dejuan Lewis, Defy NorCal’s Director. I used motivational quotes like that to encourage each student that I came in contact with to expand their circle, knowing it would boost their self-esteem and help them explore more possibilities.
I enjoyed my work at the re-entry campus in LA, but I kept my eyes open. After 9 months I put in for a lateral and upward transfer to work for Amity in one of the California prisons where they have a contract to provide rehabilitative services. I updated my resume and drafted a fresh cover letter, then I used the interview tips Defy taught me. It worked! I got the job and started working in prisons on March 16, 2021. Soon after I received the increase in pay, I also started working with a realtor and looking for a house. It was a competitive housing market, but I was fortunate. I put in three offers and one got accepted!
Today, I'm living the dream. I'm off parole and I own my own home! But more importantly my life has balance. I'm still active in the groups that helped me to perform at a high level. I value their fellowship and spiritual support. I'm still humble. Every day I learn more about what it takes to be stable in this world. It takes financial discipline, mental health, physical outlets, and support. No one succeeds on their own.