Novillia doesn’t hide from her past—she shares it openly, and tells it like it is.
By age 16, she began using drugs. At age 18, she experienced her first overdose. For years, this pattern consumed her life, leading to incarceration and forcing her to neglect her family and wellbeing.
“I’ve been through a lot,” she says, “I’ve slept on rooftops, inside abandoned buildings. My son was born in prison. My life has revolved around drugs for so long. But in me, always…was a voice that I could always do better”
Eventually, Novillia listened to that voice and found treatment, beginning the process to healing. She joined a program that reconnected her with her children, and, through hard work, found sobriety.
But when it was time to obtain employment, the stigma of her past proved to be a difficult hurdle to overcome. “I have a bachelor’s degree, graduated 4.0—the top of my class. But I’ve been on interviews and, believe me, I see discrimination all the time.”
With this challenge, she was referred to The Fortune Society, where she enrolled in our Employment Services program. Here, she learned how to answer questions about her conviction history with confidence, and was equipped with tools to overcome other obstacles beyond the first interview: “Fortune really helps people build back up. You go back into the job market with a belief system…”
At Fortune, she found the hope she desperately needed, in many places. In addition to the Employment Services program, she discovered it in staff members like Michael Brundidge, who helped her get her very first job. Since then, Michael has become a rock of support: “Michael Brundidge has been someone who’s been a constant staple in my life. Someone who I really, really appreciated, telling me the good, bad, and the ugly.”
Novillia now owns her own business. Her company – A Sigh of Relief, LLC – is a cleaning service that helps lift up others that were in her situation. “I always wanted to have a business where I helped people,” she says. Her staff, many of which are Fortune participants and others with justice involvement, look forward to her words of wisdom and guidance. As a business owner, she is contributing to her community, and achieving success on her own terms.
Like Novillia, every individual with justice involvement should have the opportunity to pursue their dreams. This type of support is needed now more than ever. Over 50,000 individuals come home from New York prisons and jails each year, and face discrimination related to housing, employment, and more.
This Giving Tuesday, help us counteract this. This vital work needs you. Since 1967, individuals like you have given hope to thousands. Though we’re 50 years old, we’re not slowing down. Through service and advocacy, we’re committed to giving each person who walks through our doors new chances to begin anew. Your contributions make this possible.
Show your support for us on Giving Tuesday: Make a donation today.