Hassan’s prior experience with the criminal justice system doesn’t define him. Instead, he is using it as a catalyst to define his future. It’s been four years since he began his reentry back into the community. Today, he’s one semester away from receiving an associate’s degree in Human Services, and is the soon-to-be father of a child, his fourth, due next month. He is enthusiastic, ambitious, and believes firmly in the importance of giving back.
Hassan is a member of The Fortune Society community.
Community is at the core of our success here. In all of our in-house programs, participants will likely work with staff members who can relate to their experiences first-hand— nearly 50% of Fortune staff members are justice-involved individuals themselves. Hassan recalls that it was empowering for him to work with like-minded leaders: “They know what it’s about for a person to get a second chance,” he says, “To see where they’re at and how hard they [advocate] for others, that just made me want to [succeed even more].”
Like the staff members that he interacts with, Hassan came to The Fortune Society to build a better future. Through our Employment Services program, he landed an internship with Goodwill Industries International, Inc., where he worked as a youth counselor. It was there that he discovered his passion for working in human services: “I said, ‘you know what? This is something I see myself doing.” Now, long after his internship ended, he still goes back to Goodwill. He wants to give young people the guidance he never had.
Taking heed to guidance, and rerouting your life’s trajectory, isn’t always easy. Struggles can accompany every step forward. As Hassan continued shaping his new path, for instance, he struggled with the estrangement of his oldest daughter. Strict rules made it difficult for him to maintain contact while navigating incarceration and eventual parole. Still, Hassan is determined to be a good father. He enrolled in our Family Services program, where has learned new parenting skills that help strengthen the bonds between his daughter and nine-year-old twins. Even after he completed his program sessions, he still comes to new meetings on occasion, he says, “just to sharpen my skills and also catch some stuff that I didn’t catch before.”
Many in Hassan’s life see his unrelenting persistence and dedication, including his college professors. On the last day of class this semester, one professor called him into her office: “She said ‘I see you… I can see you being a director of one of those non-profit programs,’” recalls Hassan. She admired Hassan’s passion and openness about his past. Indeed, Hassan uses his history of justice involvement to direct both his scholarship and activism: “I’m not running from or hiding from it. I use that as my platform to get to where I want to go and what I got to say,” he notes.
After obtaining an associates degree, Hassan plans to push forward to earn a bachelor’s. He doesn’t know which direction he’ll take his career after that, but he’s committed to still working hard: “You have to get out here and, you know, just make it happen for you. That’s what I did.”
Article written by Aya Abdelaziz and David Leon Morgan