Participant Stories

Participant Stories: A Journey from the Streets to a Role Model

After returning home from incarceration two years ago, Anthony knew that he needed to work towards a career path if he was going to support his family, so he called the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) after a friend recommended the organization.

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Participant Stories: On the Road to a Better Life and Helping Others Along the Way

Lori doesn’t believe in limitations. She was told that the trucking industry wasn’t for women, so she studied every day until she learned the commercial driver's license test inside and out.

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Participant Stories: A Self-Motivated Participant Finds a Career

Some people take a crisis and turn it into an opportunity, and Jason is one of them. Sentenced to prison at the age of 18, Jason knew that he could dwell on his mistakes and live an unhappy life inside, or he could pursue a purpose and be satisfied in a bad situation.

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Participant Stories: “You Have Somewhere to Go” - CEO Charlotte Site Supervisor Jalisa and Her Path to Success

Jalisa, a site supervisor at the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) in Charlotte, not only uplifts herself but also empowers the individuals under her wing to reclaim their lives and get back on track.

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Participant Stories: An Advocacy Fellowship Leads To a Bright Future

After Terissa M. nearly lost her life in a car accident two years ago and suffered a tragic personal loss, she knew that it was time to seek help for her substance use. But what she didn’t know was that one day, she would be in a position to help other people heal too.

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Participant Stories: “A Diamond in the Rough” – How CEO is Helping Demetrius Uncover His True Potential

Like many people reentering their communities after incarceration, Demetrius faced roadblocks to obtaining employment once he got home. Prospective employers struggled to look beyond his record, and Demetrius found he needed to improve some professional skills to help him stand out as a job candidate.

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Participant Stories: “Best moment of my life”: Dion reflects on apprenticeship graduation

Reflecting on his graduation this past summer from the Building Futures Program, an apprenticeship program for the construction industry, Dion said that having his father present meant everything to him.

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Participant Stories: “Exceed everyone’s expectations:” Reggie finds new purpose with Hilco and CEO

Philadelphia Hilco Crew Site Supervisor Ella Saunders can’t help but sing Reggie’s praises. “Reggie serves as an inspiring example of personal growth and determination to positively impact society,” says Saunders.

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Participant Stories: Chris finds security in earning CDL: “That means everything to me”

It’s been a year of accomplishments for Chris, a former participant at the San Jose office of the Center for Employment Opportunity (CEO). He has not only completed a year of employment post-incarceration, but he also earned his Commercial Drivers License (CDL) this spring.

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Participant Stories: Reading His Way Into Success: Joseph’s CEO Leadership Program Journey

Joseph is a big reader, completing dozens of books a year. He shares that his two favorites are The Winds of War and War and Remembrance by Herman Rouk, historical novels that tell a sweeping story of World War II, but he says he’ll read almost anything

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Participant Stories: A New Chapter: Sha-Ken's Advocacy Leads to Landmark Legislation

Sha-Ken recently realized a dream he never imagined was possible: he helped pass New York state legislation that will positively impact people with past justice-involvement like his.

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Participant Stories: Turning Passion into Action: How an Advocacy Program Lit Azariah’s Flame

This spring, Azariah performed a prestigious rite of passage: he spoke at the graduation ceremony for a program he’d been a part of called the Advocacy Leadership Committee (ALC).

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Participant Stories: CompTIA training reunites Brian with his passion for IT

Brian is proud of everything that he has accomplished in the short time since he was released. He says that CEO and the CompTIA training have given him the support to help him get back on his feet and on a path toward a career.

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Participant Stories: IT Training program provides new opportunities for Allen–and his dog

Allen didn't just have himself to worry about at home—he had Max, his new dog. "He suffers from such bad separation anxiety when I'm gone," Allen said. "Every day I'm going to work, I have a little camera in my living room for Max. I call it my Max cam."

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Participant Stories: With IT training, Jerel invests in a future for his family

Jerel is part of a new advanced training opportunity through the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO). Through this program, CEO financially supports participants through information technology (IT) training that should lead to a well-paid career.

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Participant Stories: Walter breaks the cycle and is helping others do the same

Once coming home, Walter had researched organizations that could help him gain employment. This is when he came across Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), and began to feel excited and hopeful about the next phases of his life.

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Participant Stories: Consistency pays off: Ras achieves 365-day employment milestone

This holiday season, Ras has an extra reason to celebrate: he recently achieved a year of employment post-incarceration.

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Participant Stories: Stacey channels his voice and passion into advocacy work

Stacey is an advocacy fellow for the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO). He says this position has opened the door for him to tackle issues he cares deeply about.

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Participant Stories: Over-the-road and onto a new chapter, Rodney finds success in trucking

Rodney, a new trucker, not only drives a long way in a short time for his routes but has come a long way in life in a short time.

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Participant Stories: Celebrating a full year of employment, Brian looks to the future

This past July, around the time many Americans were celebrating the anniversary of the nation’s founding, Ohio resident Brian celebrated a personal milestone: 365 days of employment post-incarceration.

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Participant Stories: Opinion: Why companies should hire formerly incarcerated workers like me

I’ve been an information technology support specialist in Detroit for half a year now, and I consider myself lucky because I love my job helping other people solve problems. But it wasn’t easy getting here.

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Participant Stories: Venitra finds both a career and self-confidence with reentry support

Venitra loves her job as a picker at a warehouse in Oklahoma City, OK. She gets excellent benefits and uses the forklift skills she trained for. However, there was a long period when she was fearful about finding a good position. She was incarcerated during the pandemic and was unsure what work she would be able to do after her release, especially because before being in prison, she and her husband had only worked fast-food jobs.

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Participant Stories: With reentry support, Shannon achieves socioeconomic mobility

Shannon has made a career turning struggling businesses into winning operations. But his biggest success has been his ability to turn his own life around in a way that positively influences many.

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Participant Stories: A Returning Citizen From Michigan Is Giving Back To His Community

Konrad was born and raised in the rough streets of Detroit, Michigan. As a promising student in school, he had hopes of one day attending college. However, due to an abusive father, he found himself homeless and living on the streets at age 13. This unfortunate and dangerous turn of events caused his life to go in a very different direction. After a drug deal gone bad left two men fatally shot, Konrad decided to turn himself in to the police.

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Participant Stories: I Had Patience, But More Importantly, I Had a Game Plan to Become a Successful Entrepreneur

Ever since he was young, Terrance had always considered himself a business-savvy individual. Hoping to one day open his own customizable t-shirt shop, he set out to educate himself on how to run a small business. While incarcerated in upstate New York, Terrance enrolled in college courses, majoring in Entrepreneurship Management.

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Participant Stories: Inspired by a Commitment to Community and Centering Impacted Voices

“A jail is a lockdown, but prison is a community,” says Charles, citing the work of famed prison reform advocate, penologist, and longtime warden of Sing Sing Correctional Facility, Lewis E. Lawes. Over the 40 years of his incarceration, Sing Sing was just one of the many institutions where Charles was held, in fact, he was there twice. After all of those years, he says that what he ultimately found was a sense of community.

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Participant Stories: Key Fixes for New York’s Broken Parole System Await the Governor’s Signature

After my incarceration at Lakeview Shock Incarceration Correctional Facility for non-violent offenders in Brocton, New York, I quickly realized I was living in constant fear of reincarceration. My parole officer had issued strict conditions such as travel limitations and unreasonable curfews, which prevented me from getting to work on time. There were incessant home visits, often at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning. I was convinced my parole officer was scrutinizing my every move, just waiting for a reason to issue a technical parole violation.

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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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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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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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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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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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Participant Stories: 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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Participant Stories: 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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Participant Stories: 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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Participant Stories: 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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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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