Michael Brundidge, Manager of Business Services at The Fortune Society

Fortune Society Teaches Its Clients
To “Embrace Change” As The Secret
To A Successful Transition

Monday, December 28, 2015

Coming to The Fortune Society in 2004 was one of the best decisions I ever made. After serving 16 years in New York State Department of Corrections, I was determined not to return to wearing institution-issued greens, but instead to wear the color of success through serving as a beacon of hope and inspiration to those incarcerated.

The same day I left prison, I asked my family to take me to Fortune. I had heard so much about the agency — and I’d promised a Fortune peer counselor that I would make an appearance the day I was released.

Not only did I show up, but I decided to enroll in Employment Services. After completing the job training evening workshop, I was offered an internship as a cold caller. I found that it was something I enjoyed and was good at. As an intern, I was hired to work three days a week from 10 AM-2 PM. However, I was committed to change and to reinventing myself, so I opted to work five days a week from 9 AM-5 PM. This provided me with an opportunity to increase my skills and to learn about other key roles within the Employment Services unit.

As a cold caller, I would telephone employers to see if there were any open positions within their business that they needed assistance in filling. I would market the agency’s proven track record of providing highly skilled and motivated candidates to employers at no cost to them.

The highly skilled and motivated candidates are the men and women who made the decision to invest several weeks of their lives to participate in our work-ready Employment Services workshop. Within the first two days, I speak to the new participants to offer a word of encouragement with the hope of convincing them to be active participants and to learn as much as they can from the workshop. I explain to them that I realize their time is valuable, and those who have spent time incarcerated often understand the need to maximize time that they will never reclaim.

I share with them that I never expected to go to prison at the age of 18 — or to come home at 34 — so if anyone shares my sentiments, they should have no time to waste.

For many, their motivation to complete the Employment Services workshop is not for themselves, but to keep their parole officer off their backs — or to prove to their family that they have changed. This can add a lot of pressure to someone trying to do what is right. I tell them that if they are here, they should make sure they are doing the training for themselves and not to prove anything to anyone. I say this because, in life, we can do a million good things, but when we slip and make a bad decision, what people remember about you is that bad decision.

We work to build our participants up by empowering them to not only see change (through the role modeling of staff who are formerly incarcerated) but also to believe they can change. By the end of the two-week workshop when they receive their certificates, many leave with hope, pride, and the belief that they are unstoppable because of how their self-esteem has been boosted.

The Fortune Society believes that the hearts of men are good, that people deserve a second chance, and that as a society we should support them in the pursuit of their hopes and dreams.  Thus, our motto is “Invest in people, not prisons.”

Looking back on the 12 years since I left the criminal justice system and joined Fortune … and now that I am the Manager of Business Services … I can honestly say that the decision to make Fortune my first stop as a free man was truly a liberating decision. It freed me from the guilt and shame of my past, freed me from my fears of uncertainty about my future, and helped prepare me to be the man I am today.

I once read that “Change is the law of nature. Those who allow themselves to become caught up on the past and the present will surely miss the future.” I have come to understand that, just as a caterpillar changes into a butterfly with time, so too does a boy change into a man with time. Some people just need a little more time and nurturing than do others to come into their greatness. And that is what The Fortune Society believes – and why it has supported thousands in doing so for over 48 years.

Categories: Community

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