Elijah was released from prison on a Tuesday. And by the following Monday, he was taking Job Readiness classes at Project Return, eager to begin the next chapter of his life.
While Elijah was incarcerated, he heard about Project Return’s dedication to helping people gain employment. So when he was released, Elijah made sure that he was one of the first in line at our office that Monday morning because he knew how badly he needed help finding a job so he could get back on his feet.
While he was at Project Return, Elijah took job readiness classes and got his child support payments reordered to a more affordable rate. He also participated in mock interviews, which he cites as one of his most helpful learning experiences at the agency. Many Project Return participants are tempted to lie about their conviction history because many have been promised a follow-up phone call during an interview—only to never receive the call as promised. “But Project Return convinced me not to lie about [my convictions],” Elijah says. “They showed me I could turn a negative into a positive by telling an employer all the great things I’ve been doing since I’ve been out. And in Elijah’s case, when he interviewed for his current position with a local manufacturer, he was able to tell that employer about his time at Project Return and that he had enrolled as a full-time student at ITT Tech. And his employer was so impressed with Elijah’s honesty and work ethic that Elijah got the job!
As a full-time worker and a full-time student, Elijah is intentionally filling his time with productive activities so that he doesn’t fall back into old habits. And he credits Project Return’s continual support with helping him keep on track with his new life. “I needed a safe haven, and [Project Return] was definitely there because I could have easily gone back to my old community. Project Return is like home to me; I’ll always go back there.”
We applaud Elijah’s courage to share his story and his determination to keep on a productive path.
Chris grew up in Memphis, Tennessee. "Growing up in Memphis, was kind of a rough situation", he says, "we didn't have a lot of money, my mother was an alcoholic.". When he was released from incarceration in Nashville, things were even more difficult. He didn't know the area, and didn't know where to begin, "I was worried, I didn't know where I was going to live. There was a lot of uncertainty about navigating the streets and how I was going to find my way."
Chris's biggest challenge was finding employment. He worried that people wouldn't give him a chance, and that people would see him as a "nasty person on paper, a reject, societies outcast", and that he would be stuck. Chris had heard about Project Return through classes while he was incarcerated, and so he found his way, and went through Job Readiness classes.
After completing classes, Chris was recommended for a position in a mailing room on the PROe crew -- Project Return's transitional jobs social enterprise -- which allows folks to gain a recent work history, a recent reference base and earn wages in the process. While on the crew, Chris was picked up and taken home from work every day in the Project Return vans, and he proved he was a reliable, hard working employee with a great deal to offer. Soon, with this experience under his belt, Chris was able to move on to long term employment with a lawn care company, where he is doing great... He hasn't missed a day in a year!
Chris feels fortunate that he was given the opportunity to demonstrate his abilities and potential to employers through PROe and beyond, saying "You've got to give people a chance. There's a lot people that make mistakes in the world, it doesn't mean we're not trying to turn things around. It doesn't mean we're not looking for redemption. People change, they grow... They mature. You could be making a mistake, not hiring somebody. They could be your best employee. You never know."
When asked how he is feeling about the future, Chris says he's feeling optimistic. He's pursuing a bachelors degree in Music and Psychology.
Congratulations, Chris. We applaud your efforts and wish you all of the best!
Congratulations, Carl! We wish him continued success!
Rhonda was the first employee Project Return hired through its social enterprise, PRO Employment. Rhonda's motivated, professional attitude earned her positive results and recognition. During her second week in the transitional employment program, Rhonda accepted a full-time position with a local employer. In her new full-time role, she is eager to utilize her experience in inventory management and operations. We are glad to have offered her a chance to enhance her résumé with recent employment and a reference base.
Congratulations to her and best wishes for her continued success!