‘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].


They said, “You want to make some money every day?” I thought, it’s got to be illegal. CEO helped me learn to control my temper, they asked me about my life – they actually worried about me, my family. They sent me on job interviews and first I was hired by Vice Media for only six months, then I got hired full time. I’m an IT specialist.

CEO helped me be comfortable in my skin – instead of looking at myself as a failure, I’m just someone who messed up.

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