We recently sat down for a conversation with Antonette, a former participant, whose success is a great example of the power of second chances. Please read her story below, and click here if you would like to support more participants like Antonette.
Antonette was first introduced to Inspiration Corporation in 2008, when some of our staff visited the facility where she was incarcerated, and she told us “this was my 4th, 5th, 6th time or something like that being incarcerated and something had to give.”
After her release from prison, Antonette enrolled in our employment preparation training workshop, which provides a base of concepts and skills for our participants’ journey to obtaining employment. “I loved [the workshop],” she said. “Everybody didn’t look down at you. They tried to help you.”
As she was finishing up the three week workshop, Antonette was encouraged to apply for our Program Assistant position, an amazing opportunity for employment preparation training graduates to gain experience working in a professional office environment for an entire year. She said that the things she learned at Inspiration Corporation continue to help her in her career today. “They taught me how to have enough self confidence in myself to go and look for another role once that role was completed.”
The Program Assistant is a transitional job that offers our participants professional experience as they earn income to support their efforts to build stability and independence. They are responsible for welcoming volunteers, participants, and guests into our Uptown office, as well as providing administrative support to program staff, including assisting with data tracking and managing case files.
As Antonette was wrapping up her time as Program Assistant, she was offered a job as a case worker at another non-profit, but was devastated when the offer was rescinded a few days later due her criminal background. She was discouraged, but said, “Inspiration stepped in…and they kept encouraging me, and they stayed in contact with me.”
We put Antonette in contact with another organization, and before she completed her first phone interview, she decided to be proactive about addressing her past. “I was like ‘I don’t mean to waste your time, but do you hire people with criminal backgrounds?’ and you could hear a pin drop.” They decided to proceed with the interview process and Antonette was offered a position in the Fall of 2010. She has been working there ever since.
“I would not have been ready without the transitional program,” she told us. We’re happy to report that although the program had previously been eliminated due to government funding cuts, we will be reintroducing the Program Assistant position with the support of our individual donors.
There’s no doubt that Antonette’s hard work helped get her where she is today, but she stresses the value of organizations that give people a chance regardless of their past. “I think that Inspiration is a place where it helps you build yourself up, because that’s what it did for me.”
Now, Antonette is looking forward to the future. She recently returned to school to finish her degree, and this Fall she is working toward receiving her Certificate in Alcohol and Drug Counseling. She believes the key to moving forward is keeping an open mind. “You need to put yourself out there and be open to being educated, and every day’s a learning experience.”