CDOT Providing Fresh Start for People on Parole

Bob Wilson, CDOT Communications Manager

DENVER – Individuals on probation or recently released on parole are receiving a second chance to rebuild their lives thanks to a new pilot program.

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), in conjunction with the Colorado Department of Corrections and the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), has hired a number of people with criminal records to work on its bridge structures, clear graffiti, and trim or remove unwanted vegetation.

“As a public agency, we believe it’s in the community interest to provide opportunities to people who are trying to re-enter the workforce and build a new life from themselves,” said CDOT Division of Maintenance Director Kyle Lester. “We’re always looking for maintenance help and this program is a win-win since it helps us maintain our highways and it helps people who need assistance finding employment.”


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Oklahoma City: CEO’s Pat Viklund Interviewed on “From City Hall”



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The Center for High Impact Philanthropy Includes CEO in 2018 High Impact Giving Guide

The Center for High Impact Philanthropy (CHIP) at the University of Pennsylvania is the only university-based center with a singular focus on philanthropy for social impact. Today, the center released their 2018 High Impact Giving Guide and included CEO among 14 organizations carefully selected for an in-depth profile.

A PDF version of the guide will be available soon. Visit the Giving Guide main page for more information. You can also find CEO’s profile now on the CHIP website.

The New York Times featured the CHIP Giving Guide today in its special Business Day ‘Giving’ section. 

The same section also includes an article that features a profile of CEO graduate Rodney Alson Jr

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‘I Was Stuck for So Long’: How 4 ‘Disconnected’ Youths Got Help

by Alina Tugend


Rodney Alston Jr., 24, New York City, Center for Employment Opportunities

I had a close-knit family, a single-parent family. My father was incarcerated. I grew up mainly in the Bronx. I dropped out of high school senior year. I was incarcerated when I was 19 years old for grand larceny and theft. The way I grew up, I witnessed my father and mother struggle. I was of the mentality that if I want something, I’ll get it by any means. In my neighborhood, robbing someone was normal. I was young and dumb.

I didn’t want my kids to see me inside a penitentiary. I went through dozens of odd jobs and then someone told me about CEO [which offers employment services for those with criminal records].



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Pilot project helps formerly imprisoned people find employment

by Josh Dulaney

Most people wouldn’t look forward to a shift in a drainage ditch, with crisp winds whipping into the thick brush and making the work even tougher.

But on a gray Tuesday morning in Edgemere Park, Kevin Fletcher of Oklahoma City set about with a line trimmer and a lopper, content to be far away from a Lexington prison.

“It’s pretty hard being a felon and looking for work,” said Fletcher, 26. “Most people, when they see you’re a felon, they don’t want to give you a chance.”

Fletcher worked in a crew of five people, each of them an ex-prisoner earning their keep and seeking to build resumes under a pilot program funded by Oklahoma City and overseen by the nonprofit Center for Employment Opportunities.


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CEO’s ED, Sam Schaeffer,Testifies Before U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee on SNAP Employment & Training Programs



Phone: 202-360-2853

Filmed and produced by the US Senate Recording Studio. Screenshot captured on September 14 via live web stream of the hearing. Watch the full video here.

WASHINGTON, DC, September 14 — Sam Schaeffer, chief executive officer and executive director of the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry today about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’s Employment and Training (SNAP E&T) initiative and the benefits it offers formerly incarcerated people. More than 600,000 Americans return home each year from prison, and many will grapple with food insecurity and unemployment. Finding and keeping a job is essential to escaping food insecurity and leading a productive, fulfilling life. In his testimony, Schaeffer offered recommendations for the future of E&T funding, among them that more public-private partnerships and information sharing at the federal and state levels of government will lead to more impactful and cost effective programs.


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Announcing Our 2017-18 AmeriCorps VISTAs


CEO is excited to announce a new partnership with the AmeriCorps VISTA program to build the capacity of four of its offices (Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Harrisburg, and Buffalo) to serve an even greater number of formerly incarcerated people in the coming year. CEO VISTA members will cultivate financial resources, recruit and manage volunteers, develop community partnerships, and provide support for program innovation. CEO is hosting three VISTAs for 2017-18 in Pennsylvania, and a fourth in Western New York. 


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Prisoners and the Job Market: Should employers know about criminal records?


DION got his first paying job at 14—which would be admirable, except that he was selling crack cocaine. He spent much of his early adulthood bouncing between prison and the streets of Yonkers, in New York state. Then, a few months out of one four-year spell behind bars, he discovered Greyston, a 35-year-old bakery. Founded by a Jewish engineer-turned-Buddhist monk, Greyston practices “non-judgment”. To get a job, people need only provide their names and telephone numbers, and turn up on time when a vacancy arises.

Most companies are far more discerning, particularly when it comes to people like Dion. Perhaps half of America’s private-sector employers ask job applicants to declare their criminal records, and two-thirds routinely run checks before taking people on. They see it as necessary due diligence. Unfortunately, checks that individual firms believe to be prudent are collectively bad for the 7m Americans who have spent time in prison and the 70m with a criminal record—numbers that may increase if Jeff Sessions, the hardline attorney-general, pushes through tougher sentencing rules. Keeping convicts away from jobs may also be harming America.


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The Simple Act of REALLY Listening

By Nate Mandel, CEO Program Innovation Associate

Listening is one of the most important skills associated with effective leaders and employees. This simple act builds trust and empathy with clients and often leads to much more effective outcomes. So why is listening one of the most overlooked skill sets in business and nonprofits? My colleagues and I at the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), a national nonprofit that helps returning citizens develop the necessary skills and confidence to find and retain employment, recognized this was a place for improvement and set out to build a listening culture – one that makes listening a cornerstone of everything we do. This past week we celebrated our success at the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) conference in Boston, MA.

In front of a packed audience with standing room only, three CEO graduates, Antoine Ragland, Warren Sanders, and Luis Fonseca, accompanied by CEO staffer Christine Kidd, Edna McConnell Clark Foundation (EMCF) Director of Program Strategy Jehan Velji and  Fay Twersky, Director of the Effective Philanthropy Group and the Hewlett Foundation, shared their experiences at CEO. Antoine, Warren and Luis all provided critical feedback to CEO employees that helped CEO staff better understand client experiences and informed changes we made to improve the client experience for everyone. This feedback loop is part of an organization wide project called Constituent Voice in which CEO systematically seeks feedback from clients through text messages, in person focus groups and anonymous surveys.


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CEO’s Gary Damon Envisions a More Prosperous Buffalo

by Gary Damon, CEO Buffalo’s County Director

In his recent State of the City address, Mayor Byron Brown announced a new partnership with my organization, the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), to rehabilitate 62 vacant and abandoned city-owned properties while providing job training to formerly incarcerated Buffalo residents.

CEO is a nonprofit organization that employs formerly incarcerated individuals, provides them with work experience and training, and then helps them find and retain full-time employment. This partnership shows how local government can work with community-based organizations to address mass incarceration and recidivism while providing tangible economic benefits to our community.


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