Nothing brings as much joy, hope, motivation (and lack of sleep) like a new baby. STRIDE is pleased to announce the birth of Satrina in August. The story of this little one’s transition into their new world was another example of how our community raises to the occasion when needed.
Porsha entered the STRIDE Program when she was at York Correctional Institution in April 2011. She was engaged and had developed a set agenda and goals for when she returned to her community. She had one major obstacle to contend with… she needed to plan for the birth of her daughter.
We met with Porsha shortly after her release, she had already begun to apply for jobs, and had a host of credentials she wanted added to her resume. Perfect one might think, but with all the good intensions Porsha had, we had to step back and slow things down…because Porsha’s bundle of joy was now to arrive weeks early!
Distressed, Porsha was in dire need of baby items. She had not been out long enough to gain employment and her other children were much older so no baby items were in sight.
This is when the STRIDE Program sent an email out to the Quinebaug Valley Community College staff. The response was overwhelming! We received so many wonderful items: diapers, bibs, toys, onsies, cloths, medical supplies, shopping cart cover…the list was endless!
When we delivered the items, Porsha was shocked that so many people would pull together to help her out. We came just in time, she had used her last diaper and wipies that morning.
Mother and baby continue to do well, and we are pleased to report that only 3 weeks after giving birth Porsha has already had a job interview!
Here is the perfect example of what small things can do to make a big impact on someone’s life. Thank you all for your continued support, in more ways than we thought possible!
Chris joined the STRIDE team in February 2011. He battled his addiction to cocaine, and was ready to focus on the new direction his life was taking him. It was clear that his daughter and fiancé were top on his priority list. When meeting Chris you could clearly see he was action focused.
When he was released in April 2011, he engaged the STRIDE post- release job developer immediately. Chris used his time wisely and took his STRIDE courses seriously because he had a clear direction about going back to school. He immediately went to Manchester Community College and enrolled in the Precision Machining Certificate Program – he wanted to become a CNC Machinist. He secured his funding and began courses in April.
He is currently thriving with his educational goals and his family and he are reunified. He keeps in touch with us frequently and it is not uncommon for us to get an email from MCC on how great he is doing. He has successfully completed the first part of this 4 day a week, time-intensive program and is now looking to secure funding for July when the second half begins.
Chris took his time to choose a career path that not only allows him a livable wage and upward mobility, but also one which challenges him and accepts his past. We are thrilled that Chris is doing so great and look forward to his continued success!
“The STRIDE Program has done so many things for me. I truly thank them for the contribution towards my success since my release in October. The main reason and the most important component with STRIDE that made me sign up is their pre- and post-release participation in my reentry…mainly the post part. A lot of ex-offenders simply fear reentering society because they do not know how to or where to get such resources for successful reentry. This is where STRIDE comes in for me. They have continuously showed interest in giving me hope reentering society and sent me in the right directions and avenues in making my reentry successful. They have helped me realize my potential even as an ex-offender for me and my kids’ future. I’m counting on working full time at Taylor & Fenn. I am exploring my schooling options and successfully paying my child support. I have been steadily reconnecting with my kids, which is going well also. I thank STRIDE for all it has done for me. You truly are my guardian angels. Thank you.”
Celeste joined the STRIDE Program in October of 2009 after several run-ins with the law. She was ready to begin a new path in her life, wanting to focus on her three year old child. She was at a point where she realized her mistakes and wanted the support to move her life in a better direction.
In class, Celeste was an active participant learning the intrinsic value of time management, job seeker marketing and employment soft skills. She learned the lessons of being on time, the importance of follow up and interviewing techniques. She was now armed with all the knowledge needed in her job search process.
Celeste was released in February 2010; she had the self-confidence needed for her job search and began to take classes for her GED. She stayed in contact with her STRIDE Job Developer seeking assistance on job leads, resume updates and on-line application processes.
Her hard work finally paid off! In early March she had her first interview. All did not go as expected however; the position did not work with her daycare schedule and felt that she would not be applicable for the position. She called STRIDE and discussed the frustration she was feeling. Together a new plan of action was developed and with her determination to continue to do the right thing for her daughter, she began she her search yet again.
Results were finally to be seen, she was able to gain full-time employment at a local warehouse willing to work with her first shift needs. Celeste has been at this employer for over seven months now.
She continues to work with the STRIDE team on her long term career goals, which includes going back to school while maintaining full-time employment. She marvels at her personal success and is thrilled to be the mother she always has wanted to be.
Since age 15, Luc has been in the food service industry beginning with his family’s restaurant business where he also began his struggle with addiction. This led him in and out of incarceration for most of his early years. We met Luc at Bergin Correctional Institute (BCI) where he participated in the STRIDE Program. During class, Luc was very personable, outgoing, mature and always willing to participate in class. Luc left BCI in December 2009 where he went to Open Hearth in Hartford.
Ready to put his plan in place, he quickly connected with the STRIDEProgram to begin his job search. Luc was putting his résumé out there, and applying for jobs every day. Luc and I spoke regularly as he kept me updated as to how it was going. Luc was accustomed to landing a job easily; however, this time it was much more difficult. We discussed his job search approach. He was doing all he could to secure employment. About 2 ½ months into his job search and over 10 interviews later, he was offered a full-time job as a cook with Friendly’s Restaurant.
During this time, Luc reconnected with his 2 children, his 16 year-old daughter, Kayla, and his 9 year-old son, Luca. Staying clean has been the key to his overall success. He has a sponsor whom he speaks to daily and goes to three meetings a week. Most recently, Luc moved into a home with his son and his son’s mother. Three days per week he volunteers and helps out on his son’s football team. He even gave up a couple of job opportunities to stay where he is so he can be involved with his children. Now, Luc continues to make the “right choices” and his advice to anyone coming out of incarceration is “get prepared, get a plan and be ready as it is not easy out here but if you never give up you will succeed.”
The STRIDE Program found Jamison to be shy and unassuming, soft spoken, very polite, and armed with a tendency for smiling in response to just about every situation. In class he kept his head down and responded to discussion questions when prompted but was difficult to engage. We were concerned about how he would do in the competitive job market. Upon his release he found immediate employment at Applebee’s. He reported later in the month to STRIDE that he had been hired by the 99 Restaurant. He had already been promoted from dishwasher to prep cook.
On the phone, Jamison is a changed man. He presents with confidence and has a strong, clear voice. He once told me that his self-confidence was greatly affected by his participation in the STRIDE Program while incarcerated and with the continued support of STRIDE after release. Jamison’s triumph in the job market represents only a fraction of his success. Although working two jobs, he manages to go to AA/NA meetings at least four times a week. He has a sponsor, and engages in social activities with the “recovery network” that he has cultivated. He reports proudly that for the first time in his life he has a bank account and is saving money. Most importantly, Jamison is spending time with his son. He sees him every weekend and they have enjoyed some overnight camping trips. Jamison reports that he has set two goals for himself that he plans to achieve by December. He willhave his car on the road and will have his own apartment so his son can stay overnight with him. Jamison is not shy about admitting his pride in all he is doing, but he has an uncanny way of letting STRIDE know that he does not take any of this for granted. He is mindful of the frailty of his life, the shadow of his past, but mostly, he is grateful for all that he has and the hope of a better future.
The STRIDE Program enrolled a young man named Andre a year ago while doing intakes for our first class at Bergin Correctional Institution (BCI). He was serving a sentence for sales and possession of narcotics. From the beginning, Andre stated he was tired of selling drugs and wanted to get off the streets. We learned quickly Andre was serious about turning his life around. While still incarcerated with assistance from STRIDE, Andre applied for financial aid and received notification that he was granted a Pell Grant that would cover his tuition at Capital Community College. STRIDE assisted him with information on placement test taking and study skills.
In class, Andre thrived and exuded confidence even when we challenged him during mock interviews. He is intuitive and can think quick on his feet. These are skills he would need to successfully re-enter the workplace and community. Andre came back as a mentor for our second class where he shared his experiences and knowledge he learned from the STRIDE Program.
When Andre was released from BCI on September 4, 2008 to the Drapelick Center, he participated in several required programs and obtained training as a forklift operator. Once he was able to pursue employment, he wasted no time in following up on leads and enrolling in school. In November 2008, Andre was hired full-time by Subway. Andre is currently enrolled as a full-time student studying for his Associate Science degree in Human Services. Not only is Andre juggling work and school, but he is a very involved father. He has a 9 year old son named Dre-Sean whom he sees every day. Once Andre finishes his time at the Drapelick Center in April, he will be moving home with his son and his son’s mother.
Over the past year, the STRIDE Program has seen Andre grow and mature into a fine young man who has a bright future. Andre wanted to share with everyone reading his story that “while it is hard being out here, if you stay positive things will work out.” In his words, “I was deep into the streets and if I can give them up, anybody can.”
Kenyatta is happy to be working two jobs. Some may say this is odd how an individual would be excited about working two jobs; however, Kenyatta was recently released from Bergin Correctional Institute. While incarcerated, Kenyatta participated in the STRIDE Program which held its first class for men at Bergin Correctional Institution this spring. As we met with Kenyatta, we could see he had the drive and determination to turn his life around. The STRIDE Program helped Kenyatta build his confidence, self-respect, and self-esteem so he would feel confident to go out and seek employment.
Within a week of his release to transitional housing, Kenyatta was successful in obtaining two jobs. Using networking skills, he secured his first interview. While speaking with the hiring manager at Circuit City, he remembered what he learned in the STRIDE Program: it is best to be candid about your conviction. The hiring manager appreciated his honesty and offered him a full-time job. He then secured a second part-time job at BJs Wholesale as an overnight stocker on third shift. Since his release, Kenyatta has reunited with his two young sons and is now very involved in their lives. Kenyatta was deeply moved and motivated when his oldest son said “I really need you on the outside and not in jail”. In addition to all that Kenyatta has accomplished, he voluntarily enrolled himself in an anger management program. Kenyatta plans to complete his GED and then pursue a degree in business management this fall. His dream is to open a small business, possibly a convenience store, to leave for his sons as a legacy. STRIDE provided Kenyatta the tools and support needed to build his self-esteem to confidently seek and secure employment. Kenyatta can now step into the future with pride and purpose, as he learns to overcome the challenges of being an ex-offender one day at a time.
The eighty minute ocean crossing can either be a smooth cruise or rough going, depending on the weather. But Destiny is well-prepared for whatever may come. She has traveled across Long Island Sound so many times she can’t begin to estimate the number. But there is one personal “trip” she believes is noteworthy: her journey out of jail and back to the working world.Destiny arrived in the STRIDE Program in February of 2007. She appeared distrustful of any attention and reluctant to participate in the group. Destiny was serving a two-year sentence on a First Degree Assault charge. During the initial intake meeting with her case manager, Destiny proudly shared that she is Native American, a member of the Eastern Pequot Tribe.
After numerous one-to-one sessions, she began to reveal the inner voice telling her that prison was not her “destiny” at all. Over time, she began to open up and share the quiet wisdom she had gained during hard times Destiny approached STRIDE and asked if they would put in a good word with her former employer. STRIDE Job Developer, Elisabeth Cooper and Destiny discussed the benefits of being honest about her incarceration and recovery. Just days before her release in April 2007, Destiny came back to compliment the STRIDE Program for their good work “within the walls”. Two weeks after walking out of York Correctional Institute, Destiny resumed
Tracy is waiting on the porch of her temporary home in Storrs, CT for her new car to be delivered. She doesn’t have all that much time to talk since she needs to get to her full time job as a beverage server at Foxwoods. The next day she is scheduled for her Certified Nursing Assistant shift at St. Joseph’s Living Center in Willimantic. Sounds like another ordinary day in a busy life trying to juggle the American dream. What’s remarkable about this story is six months ago, Tracy was in her bunk at York Correctional Institute (YCI).
She would soon be released and worried about the world that was waiting for her back in Waterbury. After twenty years on the streets, she knew she had given too much of her life away. Desperate for change, Tracy decided to sign up for STRIDE, and hoped she might get a resume out of it. What she received was far more. Tracy ended up in the“Farmhouse,” a recovery living center in Storrs, CT. Tracy dragged out the curriculum materials from STRIDE and began working through the exercises on self-esteem, skills building, positive attitude, honesty and self-respect.With new found confidence, Tracy asked STRIDE to forward a resume and reference on her behalf to several local nursing facilities. STRIDE responded talking with the administrators to promote her potential. Tracy was called in for an interview and was told she had the best interview presentation they had ever seen. She was stunned when they offered her a position. Tracy said “STRIDE is working in my life.” She credits her success with the continuity and consistency of contact after her release. “I knew I could pick up the phone and call anytime, and I did. More than you think,” she said. Tracy has good reason to celebrate. She is a first time car owner, has full benefits and plans to be a permanent resident of Northeastern Connecticut. “I wasn’t there for my daughters,” Tracy said with regret, “but I’ve been given a second chance and I plan to be there now.” Tracy takes special interest in the young women who show up on the doorstep of her recovery home, gratefully taking on the role of nurturer and caregiver. Tracy also volunteers by calling recovering addicts who, like herself, need to hear a voice of concern on the other end of the line. It’s a far cry from the vision of the woman in drab burgundy prison garb who first greeted us. Now Tracy stands tall, a woman of poise who proudly states, “Thank God for STRIDE! It’s made all the difference.”