On May 8th, the Center for Employment Opportunities participated in the Alternatives to Incarceration (ATI) rally at City Hall in support of increased funding to the ATI Coalition. In attendance were City Council members, ATI Coalition member organizations, and individuals who have directly benefited from ATI programs and whose lives have changed as a result. Despite this year’s rain, supporters still turned out to vocalize the need for vital ATI and reentry programs, which are crucial to the City’s commitment to increase public safety and to support measurable cost-saving solutions that save lives.
This month the Buffalo Center for Employment Opportunities office began a partnership which includes Erie County Mental Health, Erie County Probation, Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC), and the newly formed Orchard Initiative Coalition (OIC). The CEO crew, made of all young adult probationers, will assist BNMC and the OIC with maintenance of the Campus and the surrounding community. The first project was to assist BNMC staff prepare for trees to be planted in the Campus, which is part of the “green” initiative currently underway in the campus. The above image appeared in the April 13 edition of the Buffalo News.
I was honored to attend and represent CEO at the National Action Network (NAN) Second Chance Conference, and invited two participants, Wyser Green and Shakiera Jeffries, to accompany me. These two young women were very dedicated to helping CEO during the Conference. Early in the morning on Day 2 of the conference, Wyser called me, while on my way to the city, to inform me that she and Shakiera were both already at the Conference, two hours before the conference officially began. In fact, Wyser and Shakiera were the first people to arrive at the Conference that morning, and had successfully secured and prepared a table for CEO in a prime location. Both participants volunteered to arrive early – it was their own initiative. In addition, they were both dressed in proper business attire – I was extremely impressed. This was after the previous day when unfortunately, the conference was overbooked and there was not enough room for all of the providers. Attendees were required to set up on a first come first serve basis, and, as a result, CEO was not permitted to set up on the first day. Luckily though, we were still able to hand out CEO information sheets and speak with the conference attendees.
Because of the location that Wyser and Shakiera secured, we attracted a multitude of conference attendees. Wyser and Shakiera introduced themselves to the attendees as CEO participants. It was apparent that attendees were excited to meet Wyser and Shakiera because they are the actual beneficiaries of CEO’s program. It is important when we can adequately describe the importance of our program to people. But it is more powerful when people can speak to, see, and touch, the people – like Wyser and Shakiera – whom our program is designed to serve. In addition to being spokespeople for CEO, Wyser and Shakiera also used the opportunities of the conference to their advantage. They walked around, collected information from, and spoke to other important program attendees – such as schools, medical outreach and community development programs. At the conclusion of the conference, we debriefed and discussed their experience. They were extremely excited about the information that they obtained at the conference. They spoke at length about the African American history that they had not previously known of. Before attending the conference, neither Wyser nor Shakiera knew who Reverend Al Sharpton was. I told them about Reverend Sharpton, his commitment to people of color and the underprivileged, and his belief in second chances.
It is clear to me that there is a tremendous value to having participants attend conferences with us. Having Wyser and Shakiera attend the conference with me and allowing them to see – with their own eyes, and associate freely with so many positive people of color, especially prominent African Americans – altered their concept of self. All of the people at the conference who met Wyser and Shakiera knew gained a better understanding of CEO’s worth. Everyone knew that Wyser and Shakiera have histories of incarceration and are dedicated to rebuilding their lives. Everyone helped them to realize their personal worth.
The conference attendees congratulated Wyser and Shakiera on their decision to alter their futures for the best. They asked them to personally explain how CEO has, and is, helping them. Wyser and Shakiera did explain – emotionally yet eloquently. I was taken off-guard, and almost brought to tears when I heard Shakiera describe to a National Action Network member how CEO has kept her off the streets by teaching her carpentry and life skills. I was shaken when she added that I have been like a father-figure to her and have served as a mentor to her in the program. I am aware that CEO is not funded as a mentoring program but I strongly feel that young participants need to have mentors to help guide them and to help them fulfill CEO’s goals.
Wyser and Shakiera were not looked down on by the prominent people of color who attended the Conference. On the contrary, they were embraced wholeheartedly and applauded for their commitment to change. I am convinced that this experience will never be forgotten by these young women, and that they will draw upon it for strength on their journey to fully realize their individual second chances.
By Keito Gray, Participant Outreach Specialist/CBO Liaison
On March 28th, the Tulsa office staff attended the Tulsa Business & Legal News dinner to celebrate the 2013 Tulsa 40 Class because our own Kelly Doyle, County Director, was one of the honorees. The Tulsa 40 Class consists of “men and women who come from the Tulsa MSA and are company executives, entrepreneurs, educators, representatives, energy leaders and innovators who have accomplished much before the age of 40.”
Kelly’s accomplishment–opening our Tulsa, Oklahoma office in July 2011–a feat she described as her “most significant professional achievement” to date, has brought employment services to formerly incarcerated individuals in the Tulsa area who are looking to turn their lives around. We’re so proud of her!
In preparation for a visit from the Tulsa United Way, CEO Tulsa asked Merritt’s Bakery to bake cookies with the CEO logo on them. Merritt’s has been a supporter of CEO and has hired two of our participants, one who just made his 365 day milestone with them. Congratulations to Theo Jenkins on making his milestone. Thanks to Merritt’s Bakery for believing in CEO. The cookies were a huge hit with all of the United Way panel members.
We were given the opportunity to work at CEO in late December while looking for places to complete a community service project for our school as juniors at a private school in Austin, Texas. When CEO became an option, we immediately took the chance to be involved in this organization. With a basic knowledge of the company, we arrived with a stereotypical view on a strict office environment. Within our first day of working, we realized our assumptions were incorrect. Everyone was extremely welcoming, open-minded, and genuinely enthusiastic about what they did. We had an itinerary for the week – each day beginning with a Life Skills class in the morning for participants ages 18 to 25.
Going into the class, we were expecting a serious and tense atmosphere in the classroom. Much to our surprise, each participant was a character of their own – funny, caring, and supportive. Due to our interest in the class, we ended up observing for the entire week and were more and more intrigued every day. We discussed values, failures, and aspirations; eventually building up the participants’ confidence and motivation to work. It was a truly eye opening experience that made us realize how privileged we are and how we take the little things for granted. It was inspiring to see the development of the class members and how much more confident and motivated they became. At the end of the three mornings full of laughter and learning, some of them talked to us and shared their stories. It was moving to speak with them first hand and see their individuality – the complete opposite of the idea we previously had of someone once incarcerated. It was amazing that over only three days we had built an attachment to these young adults and really wanted to see them succeed.
Over four days total, we gained even more appreciation for the message that CEO is delivering and respect each and every one of the employees for their dedication, commitment, and enthusiasm towards helping these participants to better themselves not only in the workplace, but also mentally. Having the opportunity to witness a job coaching session, the retention and managers meetings, and having CEO and its philosophies explained first hand gave us a new perspective on the previously incarcerated and their future.
This was a profound experience for us that gave an insight on a subject we had never been exposed to. We want to thank the entire staff for welcoming us and allowing us the opportunity to work alongside them. CEO is a truly incredible company, and we are honored to have been a part of such a life-changing and inspirational effort.
On March 9th, 2013 reporter Agnes Chung from NY1 interviewed Robert Gordon, Senior Site Supervisor to discuss how CEO has partnered with volunteer organization Respond and Rebuild to help with the reconstruction and repairing of homes damaged by Hurricane Sandy in the Rockaway Park area.
The video showed a CEO transitional work crew helping to clear out the waterlogged sheet rock, as well doing construction and painting in the damaged homes. Homeowners were very grateful for the assistance and CEO participants were happy to give back.
The Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) is proud to participate in Work for Success, a jobs initiative, initiated by Governor Cuomo, aimed at reducing the high unemployment rate among the thousands of New Yorkers returning home from prison. Work for Success will develop a comprehensive statewide approach to increase job readiness and improve employment outcomes for the formerly incarcerated. This initiative will benefit all New Yorkers by creating more tax-paying, law-abiding citizens, which will make streets safer and strengthen the state’s entire economy.
On March 12, 2013 State Labor Commissioner Peter M. Rivera and Empire State Development President, CEO & Commissioner Kenneth Adams, announced a new state-wide employer outreach tour called “Work For Success” that provides training and employment for the formerly incarcerated. The tour will begin with outreach events in New York City, Albany, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo.
The press release is below, or you find it here.
New York State
Department of Labor
Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor Peter M. Rivera, Commissioner
State Labor Department and Empire State Development Announce State-Wide “Work ForSuccess” Tour Highlighting Incentives to Businesses That Hire Formerly Incarcerated Men and Women
Bold outreach initiative promotes the financial benefits of hiring the formerly incarcerated, the positive experiences of other employers, and trained readiness of these workers
Albany, NY (March 12, 2013) -
State Labor Commissioner Peter M. Rivera and Empire State Development President, CEO & Commissioner Kenneth Adams today announced a new state-wide employer outreach tour called “Work For Success” that provides training and employment for the formerly incarcerated. The tour will begin with outreach events in New York City, Albany, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo.
Businesses who hire through the program are eligible for up to $2,400 in tax credits for each formerly incarcerated individual they hire. In addition, businesses are sent only trained, pre-qualified individuals to consider for hire.
“Every employed individual who stays out of jail saves taxpayers between $17,000 and $25,000 per person per year,” said Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. “Furthermore, businesses can benefit a great deal from hiring the formerly incarcerated. The tax credits help their bottom line and help boost competitiveness.”
“This program will save businesses money and give individuals a chance to succeed in work and grow New York State’s economy,” said ESD President, CEO & Commissioner Kenneth Adams. “We look forward to working with businesses across the State to let them know about the many benefits this program has to offer.”
In addition to providing tax credits and any bonding an employer may require, Work For Success saves businesses the cost of human resources services and job skills training by referring only the most qualified and appropriately trained applicants for any open jobs at no cost to business owners.
In 2012, more than 25,000 employable men and women were released from prison in New York State and almost 8,000 are already working and contributing to the economy.
“Our non-profit partners train men and women who have paid their debt to society. They are highly motivated to move on with their lives and become productive members of society,” said Department of Labor Commissioner Peter M. Rivera. “We have thousands of individuals ready to roll up their sleeves who only ask for a second chance. I encourage all employers in New York to learn more about this program and the savings it has to offer.”
Franklin Cruz of DEC Green Inc. in Bronx, NY, said: “The formerly incarcerated individuals that we’ve hired over the years are greatly responsible for our success. I gave my employee Collin a chance and I am glad I did. He is the most dedicated employee I have. All they really want is an opportunity.”
Lonnie Coplen, a Project Manager with the McKissack Construction Group, New York, NY, said: “These men and women are very special, because they are willing to move heaven and earth to change their situations.”
Jason Hargrove, IHOP District Manager for NYS in Henrietta, NY, said: “Some of my best and most loyal workers are formerly incarcerated. I will continue to hire the formerly incarcerated and urge others to do the same. Most employees stay for a good portion of time and the ones that do leave us go on to better positions with someone else.”
Anthony Fisher, who is formerly incarcerated, started his own business and is now president and CEO of Anthony’s Janitorial in Queens, NY. He is now hiring those who had also served time. “A person who was incarcerated is extraordinarily committed,” said Fisher. “If I’m running a program that can help someone else and it changes that person, I know I’ve done my job because that person is going to change another person’s life and that person is going to change another person’s life and my legacy will live on.”
Ironworker Charles Dalton of Local #46 who is also formerly incarcerated said: “It was more than someone saying you now have a second chance, it was someone saying this is your chance, take it and make of it as you will. This has meant the world to me. It’s given me the chance to have a life after some terrible mistakes. It’s given me a true second chance.”
The Work For Success program is being promoted through Public Service Announcements with Time Warner Cable and Cablevision and advertisements in the New York City Subway System.
For more information about Work For Success, call 1-888-469-7365 or visit www.workforsuccess.ny.gov.
For most individuals looking for work, those words offer promise. But those same words can be daunting to someone with a criminal conviction who is trying to reenter the job market.
At the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), we are dedicated to helping former offenders transition back into the workplace. It’s not easy to overcome the stigma of conviction. But we believe that anyone who wants to work should have the preparation and the support needed to find a job and stay connected to the workforce.
HELP IS HERE!
CEO addresses the severe joblessness these individuals face by creating immediate, paid transitional work for all our participants. This service is critical for people who have little to no work experience and who need to support themselves and their families. These crews provide structure and income, as well as skill-building opportunities and a platform for entering the full-time labor market with the support of CEO’s team of job development professionals.
The CEO model has been independently proven to increase public safety: a three year random assignment evaluation conducted by MDRC showed that CEO made statistically significant impacts on all measures of reducing recidivism. In addition to increasing public safety, the CEO model also demonstrated a return on investment to the taxpayers. In other words, the program saves money. CEO’s evaluation found that every $1 spent on CEO’s program resulted in almost $4 of savings through reductions in recidivism and increased employment. A critical part of that model is transitional paid employment.
The National Transitional Jobs Network (NTJN), a national coalition dedicated to getting the chronically unemployed back to work, is the principal policy advocate working to get federal funding to support successful programs like CEO. NTJN also shares innovations and best practices with transitional jobs programs across the country to improve program outcomes and provides programs with technical assistance advising. They often use CEO’s evidence-based success to educate and influence policymakers to support Transitional Jobs.
CEO supports the Transitional Jobs field through social innovation and continuously striving to improve outcomes. NTJN supports the field by sharing innovations with other programs across the country.
Both CEO and NTJN are committed to making sure that people facing barriers to employment, such as having a criminal conviction, can get and keep employment by identifying what works, participating in research, disseminating best practices and fighting for funding.
CEO helps create success stories. The definition of success to our participants may include getting their first job, first paycheck, first promotion, developing self-esteem, and helping to support their families. We have thousands of these stories and we are committed to keeping them coming by helping individuals make the difficult transition from incarceration to self-sufficiency.
CEO offers a path to change – change that works – for everyone.
CEO and NTJN are thrilled to be part of the Huffington Post Job Raising Challenge. Putting Americans back to work is what we are all about. Help CEO and NTJN to continue to create success stories by donating to our causes.
Video clip courtesy of ABC 10 News.
The Center for Employment Opportunities San Diego office celebrated their one year anniversary with an opening event attended by criminal justice officials, community members and CEO participants. Special guest speakers included Bonnie Dumanis, San Diego District Attorney and Mack Jenkins, Chief Probation Officer. Our San Diego office has a lot to celebrate in its first year. CEO San Diego has helped over 50 individuals returning from incarceration find full-time, unsubsidized employment, a remarkable statistic that would have been impossible without the hard work and dedication of our team. Thank you Keiara, Daniel, Pablo, Bruce, Nate, David and Carlos!
Video clip courtesy of Univision San Diego Contigo.