We are not just an organization for second chances. Sometimes, individuals need multiple opportunities to find their way forward. Still, at each stop and start, we will be here, helping justice-involved individuals see that a successful future is attainable— regardless of how long it takes.
Fortune Career Advisor Carlos Rodriguez first walked through our doors in 2005. Though he successfully completed our Job Readiness Workshop, he experienced difficulty with further commitment. After an additional experience with justice involvement, Carlos again came to us for help in 2014: “They embraced me the same way they embraced me the first time,” he notes.
But again, it proved difficult for Carlos to dedicate fully to our approaches to successful reentry. After leaving to pursue odd jobs, he soon encountered a rut of dissatisfaction with his life’s direction. “I became a car salesman and got pretty good at it,” he says, “but I just didn’t like it. I wasn’t happy.” Unsure of what to do next, he found his way to Fortune for the third time, where fellow Career Advisor Hanna Elfiky encouraged him to stay, convincing him that his skills could uplift participants with shared experiences.
In addition to support like Hanna’s, Carlos credits newfound maturity and a fresh outlook for his renewed determination, along with a desire to see others in his community find hope. “I believe I had a lot to offer…,” he notes, “this could be my way…to help the community rebuild itself, help people rebuild their lives, [and save] them from making the mistakes that I have made…” Now, through daily service, he has found the happiness that was missing from previous career paths: “I have never been happy with any other jobs the way I am here.”
This joy is rooted in a transforming purpose. Instead of driven by money, the goals at Fortune are people-focused. “As a salesman,” says Carlos, “[it was like] ‘sell as many cars as you can, and get the highest commission possible.’ Here, [the mission is to] help those who need help just like you did.” In his role as Career Advisor, Carlos readily shares his story of finding hope after habitually making negative decisions: “I was one of those stubborn kids, running around and [doing all kinds] of nonsense. But today, I feel successful. I have made a complete change…and I feel great.”
Helping the participants he works with access similar change is a multi-step process. With each participant, he first engages in conversation, getting to know their background. Context around family history, substance use, educational levels reached, and criminal justice experience all helps to determine the best path forward for each individual. With this information in tow, Carlos then asks about their goals: Where do they see themselves in the future? What is their ideal job environment? Regardless of the answers, Carlos assures them of their ability to thrive: “Fortune will help you achieve those goals as long as you help yourself, “ he notes, “…that’s what we’re here for.”
Today, with the support of his fellow coworkers and Fortune’s ongoing career development workshops, Carlos is more committed than ever to be of service to those who share his story of justice involvement. And he sees that Fortune is the perfect place to continue doing that: “I am glad I [came back]. I think I made a really good decision.” At last, he says, “I am able to be me. I don’t have to pretend to be anyone else.”
*Article by David Leon Morgan