“Don’t mistake your worth. Our pasts don’t define who we are.”
My journey was a struggle. Providing a good life for yourself is important but it’s especially hard for people coming out of prison. I have a criminal background. I battled with addiction, and had begun stealing to support it. In 2012, I was sentenced to five years in prison for burglary. When I got out I wanted to help support my family and make some sort of career for myself, but I was having difficulty finding employment where it would be worth it to pay for daycare, and then on top of that dealing with my background. Good paying jobs typically don’t want to hire a felon.
One day I approached a chain jewelry store for employment, and explained how I would be great for the job. Based upon first impressions and my interaction with the manager, they were so excited to hire me! They even brought out the training certification, joking that I almost didn’t even need to fill it out. The employee laughingly mentioned something about not being a thief or having a background. I had to say ‘well, I do have a background’. They didn’t believe me. Once I said ‘no I’m serious, I do have a criminal background’, they said we cannot hire you. I realized that’s really sad, how someone is truly able to trust me based on first impressions, even telling me how I would be a great fit, but because of my past they aren’t able to hire me.
But I feel that really was meant to be. My fiance Nick and I did the “Getting Ahead; Bridges out of Poverty” class at NECIC. I don’t consider myself poverty-stricken, but I want to protect myself and my family from financial crisis. After that I was referred for a position at a local counseling center, and decided to apply through Temp2Higher and I got the job right away. My bosses are more than gracious to me. They are the kind of people who don’t judge you based on your background, and believe in giving second chances to those with a criminal background. I’m now employed full-time, and my work is so fulfilling.
My advice to others struggling with where I was back then, is to not give up. There were a few times I would get so discouraged. I would send out my applications to 20 places in one week and not get any phone calls It’s easy to get discouraged and think you are going to have to be a part of the working poor. But being a recovering addict or a felon doesn’t mean you have to settle. Don’t mistake your worth. Our pasts don’t define who we are. We have to fight extra hard to prove ourselves now, but that’s not a bad thing. You are able to earn your respect, and help others along the way. So don’t give up. “