How Fortune Inspired Andrew to Continue His Education

How Fortune Inspired Andrew to Continue His Education

Andrew Tate has held a few titles since coming to The Fortune Society in the summer of 2019 but has recently taken on a new role: student pursuing a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree. Andrew first came to Fortune as a participant and was quickly hired as a receptionist before transitioning to a role in the Better Living Center Fortune’s mental and behavioral health out-patient treatment clinic.  

“Working with the Better Living Center showed me new things that I have realized I want to do but can’t without being a Licensed Social Worker,” Andrew explained. “Having that MSW opens doors for me of ways I can work and how I can work with individuals. Even if I don’t go into clinical work, it will broaden my perspective.”  

While the day-to-day work of the Better Living Center partially inspired Andrew to pursue a career in social work, he also felt motivated by Fortune’s realization of its mission and values.   

“In all of these systems – prisons and courts – when you’re in there, it’s like you’re just a number, you’re not really a person. But in this building, from day one, there has always been warm respect not just for me, but I see that being given to other people that come in,” said Andrew. “That’s also where I drew motivation from – I just realized, ‘this is what I want to do.’ I want to be part of honoring someone’s humanity and dignity.”

Andrew had started his Bachelor’s degree before his incarceration and wanted to get back into education after coming home but admits that many other factors were keeping him from finishing his degree. His family was a main priority and having a solid way of supporting them was his initial focus. 

He said, “When I got out, time was such a factor. I have a daughter and I needed to work to support her, so I put education out of my mind. But once I came to Fortune and I was around others that were encouraging me, it sparked the interest in education again and I was able to get back into it.”  

One of his Fortune colleagues gave him the big push that he needed to stop putting off completing his undergraduate degree. They spoke about his goals and offered suggestions of places to start taking classes again. 

“As soon as he heard that I was interested in going back to school, he started looking up programs and university websites and signed me up for an information session right then and there,” said Andrew. 

Andrew remained in touch with the school his colleague recommended, even as the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and ultimately completed his degree in Psychology in under two years by using credits he had earned before his incarceration.  

Andrew plans to complete his Master of Social Work in the summer of 2023 and is looking forward to the different ways he can use his degree. He currently feels drawn to advocacy, community organizing and targeting issues at the systemic level, but is still interested in working with individuals in a clinical setting. He knows that his experience of being formerly incarcerated will inform the ways he can interact with participants.  

“My experience gives me insight that someone who hasn’t been [to prison] wouldn’t have if they were working with someone coming from that setting,” said Andrew. “It gives me a deeper perspective.”

However, Andrew’s educational journey has not come without sacrifice: because he is a full-time employee, student and father, he has to find a way to balance each of his responsibilities. As soon as his workday ends, he transitions into student-mode and attends class for three hours in the evening, while still finding time to be an involved father.  

He feels that being a student and a dad has set a good example for his daughter: “I think my being in school is good for her. Now, she’ll see me at the desk and she grabs her computer to write her essay, too. And it works both ways because it motivates me too: I feel like I have to succeed so when it’s over, I can show her how hard work pays off.”  

Though Andrew’s hard work and dedication to his studies come from within, he is not convinced that he could have accomplished all that he has so far without the support and stability that being a part of Fortune provides:  

“Having the steady income, having an environment where I felt safe and felt comfortable coming – those things made the journey possible. As well as the people I interact with that continue to motivate and encourage me. Without that, I don’t think I would have gotten to this point.”

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