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CLIENT STORIES

We understand that all formerly incarcerated people are worth more than their past mistakes. Through our services, we provide the tools and resources our program participants need to rebuild their lives after incarceration and find paths to success.
Meet Harry Cruz
“I wrote a letter to The Fortune Society asking for help. They responded immediately. The same day I stopped in, I received a room at their transitional housing unit, The Fortune Academy. I now live in my own apartment.”

After 31 years in prison, I was released in October 2016 with few resources. I had to adjust to a drastically different society and needed help making it on my own.

The challenges of my reentry were compounded by medical conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and a partial foot amputation. For years, my requests in prison to address needs like obtaining a prosthetic were ignored.

After my release, I stayed at a men’s shelter, but knew I couldn’t stay there long. I was ready to change and move on.

Eventually, I wrote a letter to The Fortune Society asking for help. They responded immediately. The same day I stopped in, I received a room at their transitional housing unit, The Fortune Academy. I now live in my own apartment.

In addition to housing, I now have access to health care, and can talk with staff to avoid making mistakes that may lead to further justice involvement. For the first time, I’m learning to open up, and it feels good.

Fortune also showed me that it’s never too late to pursue my goal of obtaining a High School Equivalency Diploma. I plan to participate in Fortune’s Education and Culinary Arts programs this year. Looking forward, I hope to become a professional in the food industry. I’m excited for the journey that lays ahead and, with Fortune’s help, I know I will succeed.

Meet Damon Rodriguez
“After 17 years in prison, I was homeless and unemployed upon release. My situation wasn’t surprising— I had been living in the streets since I was 12 years old. And without marketable skills, rebuilding my life seemed impossible. But everything changed when I came to The Fortune Society.”

On my first day there, I immediately knew that Fortune could help me get back on my feet. Finding a job was my priority, so I enrolled in their Employment Services program, where I learned interviewing and networking skills, plus workplace etiquette. I graduated from their Green Construction program, which opened up new career paths for me.

For the first time in my life, I had skills that made me competitive in the job market, and the potential to contribute to my community.

Fortune soon connected me to a career in construction, and I applied for the position. All of my effort paid off when I received a job offer.

Today, I am a unionized supervisor in the sustainable construction industry, earning $52 an hour. Every day, I’m proud to use the skills I learned through Fortune’s Green Construction program.

I will always be grateful to Fortune for helping me achieve success. As a way of giving back, I volunteer as a mentor to other clients. I hope my story encourages them to fully utilize Fortune’s programs, and rebuild their lives like I did.

Meet Alisa Morrison
“Before coming to The Fortune Society, I was unsure about where my life was headed. I was earning below minimum wage at my job, which made meeting basic needs difficult. My daughter saw my struggle and insisted that I come to Fortune. As a former Fortune client herself, she knew that its services would help me. So, I gave Fortune a chance, and my life changed forever.”

On the first day, I knew that I was in the right place. Home is where you can comfortably express your feelings— that’s how I felt at Fortune.

Each day I visited Fortune, I had something to look forward to. For the first time in my life, I met people who knew that despite my justice involvement, that I had the capacity to succeed. And with their support, I did.

Through Employment Services, I developed job readiness skills and participated in Fortune’s Culinary Arts program, where I found a passion for cooking.

Today, I’m proud to be a full-time chef at Project Renewal, an organization that feeds the homeless. It’s wonderful working for a cause that I’m passionate about, and with an organization that appreciates me. Incorporating what I learned at Fortune, I hope to start my own catering business one day.

Fortune made success possible for me. And because I worked hard, I thrived. Through their firm belief in paths forward for justice-involved individuals, I know that Fortune will continue to help others, like me, succeed.

Meet Jamil Hernandez
“Before I became involved with the criminal justice system, I attended seven different schools and struggled to pass basic math classes. After my release, I wanted to pursue education again but lacked crucial resources. So, I enrolled in Education Services at The Fortune Society, where I found the supportive environment that I needed.”

At Fortune, I worked hard to overcome the challenges that I struggled with for years. Plus, I met passionate teachers who helped me achieve my goals.

With their encouragement, I transformed into a motivated student and studied hard. I learned to participate in class and ask questions. Eventually, I was doing so well that I started helping other students. For the first time in my life, I developed a positive outlook on education and realized the results of hard work.

My dedication paid off when I finally earned my High School Equivalency Diploma. On the day that I received it, I cried tears of joy and thanked my teachers. I’ll never forget coming home to my mother and saying, “We did it.”

Before coming to Fortune, I never envisioned attending college. But today, it is an achievable goal. Fortune opened up new possibilities and helped me create a solid foundation for a professional career. With Fortune’s support, I will continue creating the future of my dreams.

Meet Denzel Menter
“Fortune’s services helped me develop skills that helped me to effectively communicate with my daughter and her mother. Its inspiring staff guided me through a turbulent period of my life and gave me the second chance I needed to make decisions that were best for me and my daughter.”

If there was one word to describe my life before coming to The Fortune Society, it’s “confusion.” Prior to my arrest in 2014, I was stuck in between doing good and doing bad. I was enrolled in college but still hanging out with gangs. My situation was contradictory and didn’t make sense.

After spending a year Rikers, I was denied by every other ATI program that my attorney found—except Fortune. Fortune saw a certain determination in me. They knew that, like many of its clients, I just need the right tools and direction to transform my life.  

One of the first services I used was the Family Services program. This program helped me improve my estranged relationship with the mother of my two-year-old daughter, Selena.

When I left Rikers, Selena’s mother wanted nothing to do with me. I tried every possible means of contacting her, but she wouldn’t answer. I was ready to give up, but thankfully, Fortune’s staff gave me hope and emphasized how important it was for Selena to have a father in her life.

Family Services taught me strategies to effectively communicate with Selena’s mother. By the time I completed the program I learned to calmly talk matters through with her rather than responding impulsively.

Slowly, my relationship with Selena’s mother improved, and I now see my daughter almost every weekend. When the weather is nice, Selena and I go to the park or get ice cream. I try to do activities that young children enjoy, bringing her to the M&M factory or taking pictures with cartoon characters. I was absent for the first twelve months of Selena’s life, so every minute I spend with her is important.

Thanks to Fortune, I not only became a responsible parent, but also a full-time student. Fortune’s graphic design and photography programs guided me to pursue my passion for producing films and animations. With the help of Fortune’s education program, I enrolled in Bronx Community College and will major in Graphic Design and Digital Arts.

Fortune’s services helped me develop skills that, most importantly, helped me to communicate with my daughter and her mother.  Its inspiring staff gave me the second chance I needed to make decisions that were best for all of us.

Meet Anthony Cruz
“I got a second chance because of Fortune. The ATI program saved me from going to prison as a teen. I’ve seen first-hand how prison breaks down even the strongest men and women. I’d be a completely different person. ”

I’m not the best at expressing my emotions. Sometimes, I find it hard to say what I’m thinking and feeling. But thanks to The Fortune Society, I’ve discovered the one thing that helps me express what’s on my mind— music.

Before I came to Fortune, my life was not heading in the right direction. I was arrested many, many times. My family had given up on me. I abused drugs and alcohol— there was no hope for me. I was a ticking time bomb and would surely end up in prison before I even turned 18.

But I got lucky. I was referred to Fortune’s Alternatives to Incarceration (ATI) program by a judge. Instead of serving time in prison, I was able to take advantage of Fortune’s life-changing services that would help me mature and give me the guidance and support to pursue my passions.

Thanks to Fortune’s ATI program, I enrolled in anger management classes, landed my first real  job, and gained a new mindset that helped me become a better person. The judge that referred me to Fortune even said I was a role model!

I would never have accomplished these milestones and realized my true potential without Fortune.

The staff at Fortune had a profound impact in my life and helped me discover my passion for music. They’ve served as my role models and taught me everything from voice lessons to musical theory. Fortune’s Creative Arts program has enabled me to grow emotionally and professionally— and thrive for this first time in my life.

The arts are crucial to the personal growth of many Fortune clients. Without Fortune, we would have never been given the opportunity to take creative writing classes, write poetry, perform spoken word, take creative video animation classes, make music, or create art.

Many of us have gone through traumatic experiences and thanks to Fortune, creative expression has helped us to heal.

I got a second chance because of Fortune. The ATI program saved me from going to prison as a teen. I’ve seen first-hand how prison breaks down even the strongest men and women. I’d be a completely different person.

And because of Fortune’s Arts program, I’ve discovered my passion and my stepping stone towards a better life.

Meet Mitchell Leviticus
“The staff at Fortune supported me when I needed them the most. They helped me grieve my lost family members. They also aided me in creating a plan to achieve my educational, professional, and personal goals. My counselors motivated me to study and stay focused. They set me on a straight path.”

I have been through tough times in my life recently.

I lost my father and grandfather— two of the most important adult figures in my life. They meant the world to me.

I was also caught up in the criminal justice system because of mistakes that I’ve worked very hard to put behind me. But with Fortune’s help, I managed to transform my life and redefine what I thought was possible.

The staff at Fortune supported me when I needed them the most. They helped me grieve my lost family members. They also aided me in creating a plan to achieve my educational, professional, and personal goals. My counselors motivated me to study and stay focused. They set me on a straight path.

Thanks to them, I earned my High School Diploma and was encouraged to apply to college. They also prepared me for interviews with potential employers and connected me with internships where I gained marketable skills.

I can proudly say that I’ll be attending the Borough of Manhattan Community College next year. I plan to transfer to a four-year program once I earn my Associate’s in Business Administration.

I honestly don’t know where I would be without Fortune.

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