Understanding that incarceration presents unique challenges for future job seekers, Women’s Resource Center’s New Beginnings program provides enhanced gender-responsive mentoring services to women at Kent County Jail pre-release and up to 18 months post-release.
Dejaia first heard of the Women’s Resource Center after sitting in on a session led by Coach Julie Harper-Shears at the Kent County Correctional Facility. She was immediately hooked and asked to officially join the New Beginnings program. Each week in class, Dejaia learned what it takes to become employed and how to stay employed in today’s market.
“I learned that although I made a mistake in my life, it was not over; it had just begun. I have now focused on staying on the right path, staying positive, having faith, loving myself, and working hard,” said Dejaia. She began working full time in retail last year and has since received a raise and a promotion. She celebrated her one year anniversary at work this spring. Dejaia credits her success to Coach Julie who encouraged her and refused to let her give up.
“All of my children are doing great and are so proud of me. I have a man that loves me and wants nothing but the best for me. I have an amazing support system. And most importantly, I have my higher power, “said Dejaia. “Thank you, Ms. Julie, for never giving up on me and being like a mother figure to me.”
Hope is the very first person in her family to graduate from college. As she walked across the stage to receive her diploma, her career coach from Women’s Resource Center was in the audience, proudly cheering her on. Her bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice has led her to a fulfilling job as a case manager and recovery coach.
Just a few years earlier, Hope was staying at Sacred Beginnings transitional housing. She was ready to find a job and needed help to find full-time employment, including appropriate interview clothing and help updating her resume. She took part in the New Beginnings program and was able to complete employability classes that helped her prepare for college and her career. More than just interviewing know- how, Hope gained confidence and courage through the Women’s Resource Center.
“The difference between Women’s Resource Center and other agencies is the way the staff cared for me and my family,” said Hope. “They helped me to build my confidence and self-esteem. They made me feel that someone cared about me; like I truly had purpose in life.”
To begin, I would like to introduce myself to you. My name is Lisa. I am a 32-year-old woman who didn’t always make the right choices, which landed me here.
That is actually how I met Coach Julie. I was incarcerated at Kent County Correctional Facilities working in the laundry. I kept seeing Ms. Julie in the sober living program and throughout the week. So I asked around and found out she was part of the Women’s Resource Center New Beginnings program. They help women who are incarcerated get back on their feet during the time of incarceration and after being released. I asked Ms. Julie if I could join the employability class—and of course she said yes! She and I completed the New Beginnings general orientation packet that included the guidelines to attend employability classes with WRC.
In one of the classes I became totally disrespectful toward Ms. Julie and other participants in the class. To this day, I don’t know what I was thinking. I was warned a few times about my behavior, and I ended up getting kicked out of class. But because Julie believes in second chances, she gave me one, and I am truly thankful for it. When I was released she didn’t waste any time continuing my path to employment. I needed clothes for an interview and personal hygiene items and Ms. Julie made sure I had everything I needed.
I was honored to receive a scholarship from the Metallica Scholars Program to attend classes at GRCC in welding. Ms. Julie was there every step of the way, from Orientation at GRCC to popping into class unexpectedly to make sure all WRC participants were there. That’s where I learned how to weld. Who knew! Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would receive a certificate in welding.
What I can say is that I don’t know where I would have ended up after being incarcerated if it was not for Ms. Julie and Women’s Resource Center. I am grateful that she is a person who really cares about helping women. WRC is a vital place for women who are just trying to get somewhere in life that is positive. I thank God for these women and their care for this community.
So if you’re reading this, know that this program is all about helping women from all walks of life. I am a symbol of this, and I will do what I can to show them that they didn’t waste their time on me. Thank you for this opportunity and time.
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