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Participant Stories: The Power of Family

Before his arrest, Kish had been staying with his brother and his brother’s ten children. Living together, they had all grown close to one another. Kish lovingly recalls how one of his youngest nieces kept mistakenly calling him “brother” instead of “uncle”. As he was leaving the house one day, he told her that if she knew his name by the time he returned, he would have a gift for her. When Kish returned, his niece called him by his name, and he says that it was one of the proudest moments of his life.

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Staff Stories: Cassie Anderson’s Extraordinary Journey from CEO Participant to Employee

Before becoming a CEO participant, Cassie Anderson confesses that her life was in shambles. She remembers sleepless nights, homeless in her truck, and trapped in an abusive, long-term relationship that ultimately led to her incarceration. Following her incarceration, Cassie returned to Memphis. As someone with an immense passion for caregiving, she was devastated to learn that, due to her conviction, she would no longer be able to work as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). So, she started applying to various local businesses, but all of her applications were denied. As she started to lose hope, Cassie remembers praying to God and asking for help.

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Fair Chance Conversations: The Economics of Inclusive Hiring with Jeff Korzenik

Levelset is a collaborative initiative of the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) and Envoy Growth, leveraging our common experience connecting employers with talented, motivated workers who have past justice-involvement.

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Benefits of Inclusive Hiring: Watch CEO’s Recent Corporate Roundtable

On April 15, 2021, CEO held an Inclusive Hiring Corporate Roundtable event where a group of expert panelists took a deep dive into how inclusive hiring creates value for employers.

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Participant Stories: Charandip’s Journey: From Incarceration to a Union Job

Charandip is a testament to the power of the human spirit to overcome adversity and create economic independence for himself and his family. Born and raised in Queens, New York, Charandip got into legal trouble when he was very young; trouble that followed him into adulthood. He spent a total of six years in prison at different points in his life and came to CEO in 2020, after his last two-year sentence.

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Participant Stories: Draxel Shares the Life-changing Impact of the CEO Program

Draxel Clarke knew that he needed to work in order to get his life back on track. CEO’s coaching, training, and job placement services gave him the tools he needed to succeed. Hear why Draxel believes the program can help others.

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Participant Stories: Jimmy Shares How the CEO Program Changed His Life

Jimmy Pizarro did not let poor decisions he made during his youth define his future. Hear why Jimmy credits CEO with his success and why he thinks people should consider the program after they are released from incarceration.

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Participant Stories: Participant Success Story: Malik Talks About His Journey to Become a Certified Personal Trainer

Malik is a certified personal trainer and nutritionist. Originally from New York City, he currently resides in Oakland, California. From a young age, Malik spent time in and out of the justice system, including almost a decade in solitary confinement. Being an independent spirit and a go-getter, Malik forged ahead on his own after his release from incarceration. He encountered the barriers most returning citizens face, including: a lack of employment, lack of support, and a landscape that discriminates against Black men with past convictions.

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CEO Updates: Effectively Reaching Young Adult Job Seekers with Prior Justice Involvement

The Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) and our partners launched a Credible Messenger Initiative (CMI) in 2017 as part of a broader strategy to improve services for justice-involved young adults in CEO's NYC workforce development program. The initiative paired young adult participants with full-time mentors who shared similar lived experiences to build trust and connection and to support them throughout their participation in CEO’s program.

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Participant Stories: #MLKDay Series 2021: Joseph Langdon

I was released from prison in September 2020 after 22 long hard years of incarceration. I went into prison as a 19-year-old young man and returned to the community as a 41-year-old grown man. While in that mad house that is prison, which is full of anger, rage, and negativity, I emerged as a new person with new thinking. While in prison I used my time to engage in self-reflection, education, and hard work, with a focus on being a more productive human being. In that very dark and lonely jail cell, I discovered my untapped talents and purpose. I discovered that I wanted to write and be a public speaker. I want to share my story of struggle, oppression and redemption with people so the lessons of my life can inspire others to be their best selves.

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Staff Stories: #MLKDay Series 2021: Erica DiMartino

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. believed in people. He acknowledged the divisions that kept us apart and harmed our national character but had confidence that each one of us sought greater unity and equality. He recognized that racism and inequality can never be accepted. We must meet intolerance with education and action to come to a solution. My hope is that we are able to abandon our focus on the comforts of personal prosperity, and instead embrace fidelity to social justice and equality for all. When a life has suffered injustice at the hands of another, no person goes untouched by the repercussions -- Given recent events, we see that now more than ever.

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Staff Stories: #MLKDay Series 2021: Destiny Fordham

As a young girl I often reflected on what Martin Luther King’s contributions were to our world in awe. I was always so intrigued by his influence and the work he did within the community to organize and stand against racism. His ability to persist and be a leader on racial justice at such a pivotal time still evokes emotion in me today. I saw him as a super man with a superpower.

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Staff Stories: #MLKDay Series 2021: Wallace St. Clair

The life and teachings of Dr. King have meant a variety of things to me over the years. I was 6 years old when he was assassinated. While I definitely was too young to fully appreciate the lessons of his life, my understanding grew over time and he has since been a champion and role model for me. I remember sitting in the living room with my mother watching and listening to him on the news and radio. I had yet to experience the intensity of the racism being shown on television. My kinship with the people being attacked by dogs, fire hoses and police fostered an undeniable awareness, fear of and anger towards the “establishment.” Simultaneously, there was an invincible air of hope and promise in Dr. King's booming voice that reassured me. It conveyed a sense that we were going to win. I can still clearly see the knowing glances, genuine smiles and nods being exchanged whenever my family gathered to hear him speak.

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Participant Stories: #MLKDay Series 2021: Betty McKay

Voting became an important issue for me while I was incarcerated at a California State Prison. It became clear to me that the system, which chose to treat me inhumanely and like I was disposable, acquired the power to do so by the public vote. I learned felony disenfranchisement had been a form of voter suppression aimed at black and brown people for over 100 years. Today, I continuously pose the question to myself and others: “If my vote has no power, why have they made it so difficult for me and people like me to exercise our right to vote?”

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Staff Stories: #MLKDay Series 2021: Keito Gray

"8 minutes 46 seconds. CDs. Wrong House Sleeping at home. Kalief Browder. Trayvon Martin. Central Park Five. Malcolm and Martin. Emmett Till. Nat Turner. The captive Africans crammed into the bowels of a slave ship, who communicated through their tears, and committed suicide as an act of rebellion - I carry these ansestors in the roots of my soul. As a Black man, I was never taught how to survive in a land that has oppressed my soul. I feel foreign to the sole of my feet as I walked on soil that was never meant to nourish and grow me. I carry the weight of injustice, but also the initiative to implement change. Dr. King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” This serves as the blueprint for the work I do today."

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Staff Stories: #MLKDay Series 2021: Alexa Harris

"I remember seeing Dr. King’s mural at the Compton courthouse after attending a probation meeting to tell folks about CEO. I remember feeling how important that conversation was because most of our colleagues were coming from South Los Angeles. I remember being in a room with mostly Black people, building relationships that would have a lasting impact. Planting a seed in the community to make a difference. To literally change lives. I am reminded of the countless Black and Brown kids that came in with their parents to our office, seeing their mother or father engaged in conversation with us. I carry that memory as a symbol for anything I do here at this organization: it must be rooted in anti-racism."

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Staff Stories: #MLKDay Series 2021: Ayanna Teesdale

"With the challenges and controversies that we are currently facing in society, Martin Luther King Jr. Day allows us to pause and honor one of America's greatest leaders. We are reminded on this day of all the risks, sacrifices, and consequences he faced to inspire us to stand for social justice and equality for all. Dr. King also showed us that making a difference is a team effort. He didn’t just give speeches, he asked people to join him in peaceful demonstrations and service to others. His words and actions help to inspire those struggling for social progress and opened the doors of opportunity for all people. He called us to get involved in something bigger than ourselves."

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Participant Stories: A First Time Voter Shares His Story

According to the Sentencing Project, 5.1 million people with felony convictions are unable to vote in the 2020 election. Felony disenfranchisement is among the over 45,000 collateral consequences faced by the estimated 19 million people with felony convictions. In response, CEO launched our first-ever voter registration drive focused on helping our participants and others with a felony conviction to exercise their right to vote this cycle. The non-partisan effort, a partnership with Vote.org and Spread the Vote, includes the creation of a voter resource page on our website that allowed voters to check their registration, register to vote and access other information on voting.

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CEO Updates: Meeting The Need: How CEO Has Responded to COVID

The impact of COVID-19 on the health and economic stability of every American is unprecedented, and justice-impacted people are among those most affected, particularly in low-income communities of color from which so many currently incarcerated people come. As our state continues to respond, CEO is active in the community offering employment and training to those returning home from incarceration. Through CEO’s transitional jobs program, participants have been on the front lines providing essential work to their communities.

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Participant Stories: Former CEO Participant And Second Chance Hero Battles Fires in California

Recently, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 2147. The bill, sponsored by Assemblymember Eloise Reyes (D-San Bernardino), provides a pathway for inmate firefighters to petition the courts to have their records expunged. CEO participant Victor Canales was released in 2019 before the law was changed. While not a direct beneficiary of the recent change, his story highlights the difficult path that inmate firefighters have to take to pursue a career in firefighting after release. While Victor is still working on his career path, his story offers inspiration for others.

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CEO Updates: Injustice for Breonna Taylor and Many More in Kentucky's Legal System

Breonna Taylor was murdered by the police in her own home, and last week we learned that no police officers will be held criminally responsible. Attorney General Cameron presented limited charges and the grand jury only indicted one officer for wanton endangerment, alleging only that he shot blindly into a neighbor’s home during the raid. This is not only a failure of police officers to do their jobs effectively– it is a failure of the very institutions and laws that are supposed to keep community members safe.

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CEO Joins 50 NYC NonProfits Calling for Police Reform

Policing in the United States has been under increased scrutiny and calls for reform in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and more recently, the shootings of Jacob Blake and Trayford Pellerin. These all-too-familiar tragedies serve as direct evidence as to why public trust in policing has declined, especially in low-income communities of color that bear the brunt of these practices.

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CEO Updates: Jobs for Economic Recovery Act: A Necessary Tool for Returning Citizens Seeking Employment

The Center for Employment Opportunities applauds the introduction of the Jobs for Economic Recovery Act by Senators Baldwin, Wyden, Bennet, Booker, and Van Hollen. If passed by Congress, the measure would provide jobs to unemployed and underemployed individuals, including those returning home from incarceration facing multiple barriers to work in an economy severely affected by COVID-19.

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CEO Updates: The need for local leaders to protect and expand rights for returning citizens

The Center for Employment Opportunities stands in outrage over the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the countless other Black men and women who’ve lost their lives to police brutality and racial violence. We strongly affirm Black Lives Matter. Our nation cannot move forward until our institutions and leaders come to terms with the fact that racism is a defining characteristic of our justice system.

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The 2020 CARES Act - At a Glance

The CARES Act (H.R. 748), signed into law on March 27, is a $2 Trillion economic stimulus package intended to provide limited relief to individuals, industries, businesses, states and localities affected by COVID-19. It is “Phase 3” of bills passed by Congress to respond to the pandemic following the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which included policies to improve Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) access temporarily. Even though the CARES Act is the largest economic stimulus package in our country’s history, more federal action will be needed to assist impacted populations, such as CEO participants, and to establish a pathway back from the economic devastation resulting from COVID-19.

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CEO Updates: CEO Responds During COVID-19: Federal Policy Recommendations

The COVID-19 crisis is challenging both our civic structures and our values. As the effects of the sustained economic downturn become further entrenched, those who struggle to access opportunity even in the best of times will undoubtedly bear a disproportionate burden. We have already seen how this crisis has exposed the fault lines of our nation’s inequalities. Communities of color in particular have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 as a result of historic inequities in housing, access to health care and employment. Black Americans are incarcerated at five times the rate of white Americans. If we are to address the needs of COVID-19-impacted communities, it is essential that we account for the people released from incarceration, many of whom will return to low-income communities that are now dealing with record levels of unemployment.

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CEO Updates: Constituent Voice

Constituent Voice (CV) is a strategic effort at CEO to solicit and respond to participant feedback. CV, combined with CEO’s strong performance management and evaluation work, supports increased impact and participant satisfaction. Given Constituent Voice’s central role at CEO, all levels of management engage with client feedback and work to adapt our approach based on that feedback.

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CEO Updates: Policy and Advocacy at CEO

Over the past year CEO has created a new Policy Department that will build upon the strength of our program and push for structural reforms to improve the lives of people coming home from incarceration. Working across all 10 States where CEO operates, our policy and advocacy efforts seek to diminish the impact that mass incarceration, mass supervision, and justice involvement generally, has on the economic opportunities available to a person after being released. Our policy team will be focused on creating more opportunities for individuals to secure employment and reducing the barriers they face in trying to achieve a more stable economic future.

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CEO Updates: SNAP Work Requirements: How Recent Changes Will Affect Individuals Returning Home From Incarceration

In December, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) published final federal regulations tightening work requirements for individuals to receive food assistance benefits under the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This rule change applies to those receiving SNAP termed “Able-Bodied adults without dependants,” (ABAWDs) and is expected to cut off benefits for 688,000 people. These changes to work requirement waivers bring the first final rule from the three proposed in this past year to restrict SNAP eligibility, a program that is the nation’s largest nutrition assistance resource for low-income individuals.

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#IAmYouCEO Series: Strengthening Skills, Starting a Career. Saed’s Story.

Meet twenty-five year old Saed Dixon. Saed entered CEO’s Albany New York program in August of this year unsure of what to expect. While completing CEO’s one-week orientation, for the very first time in his life, he began exploring his career interests and goals.

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#IAmYouCEO Series: First Day on the Job. Ronald’s Story.

Meet Ronald Fairiror. Ronald enrolled in CEO’s Philadelphia program in September 2018, after being incarcerated for more than 20 years. Thanks to CEO, and the unwavering support of his mother, Ronald has made strides towards rebuilding his life.

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#IAmYouCEO Series: Job Coaching and Placement. Crystal's Story.

Meet Crystal Malone. Upon release from incarceration, Crystal worked hard to find a job. Despite applying for many on her own, and being honest about her conviction history, she rarely even got an interview.

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#IAmYouCEO Series: Building for the Future. Robert’s Story of Advancement.

At a young age, Robert lost the only positive role model in his life, his grandfather, and struggled to adjust. He was incarcerated in his late teens and spent much of the last decade cycling in at out of prison. When Robert returned home in April 2019, he was determined to carve out a different path for himself.

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Staff Stories: Creating a New Paradigm for Reentry Employment: Q&A with the Experts

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CEO Updates: CEO in the News: NYTimes and The Hill

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Nyjheri Carnell

When Nyjheri enrolled in CEO she was 26 years old and had spent a total of five years in prison since she was 20. In the past, it had been easy to fall back into old routines, friendships, and habits when she came home. But this time, she said, something felt different.

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Participant Stories: Charles Brown

Charles Brown began his prison sentence when he was 17. By the time he returned home to Philadelphia he was a 53 year old whose entire adult life had been shaped by the criminal justice system. All of Charles’ accomplishments — from earning his GED to enrolling in college classes to becoming a mentor — were inseparable from his incarceration.

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Participant Stories: Katie Garcia

"[Those] were the first paychecks I'd received in seven years..."

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Participant Stories: Shanon Fulcher

“I did two years in prison, and when I came out I didn’t have the basics … a job, or clothes, or anywhere to stay. My parole officer sent me to CEO and they helped me right away. CEO got me earning money to support myself, and provided me with opportunities to get trained in different skills and get experience in the field. It’s really boosting my resume ... I’ve been working with CEO for three months now, and all these experiences are teaching me how to carry myself and grow and adapt. CEO has really helped me reenter society.”

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CEO Updates: Branching Out in the Rocky Mountain State

CEO opens a new office in Colorado Springs.

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CEO Updates: Growing Our Roots Along the Mississippi

CEO opens a new office in Memphis.

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CEO Updates: Setting Up Shop in the Motor City

CEO opens a new office in Detroit.

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