We are not our mistakes. That’s a mantra we firmly believe in at Fortune. The bold idea that anyone can find hope in spite of their past has helped thousands of individuals find ways forward since our founding in 1967. Today, we are more committed than ever to this belief, and celebrate success stories daily because of it.
Meet Hanna, who has one such story to share. After experiencing justice involvement, she was left with few ways to get back on her feet. The successful position she had in social work prior to incarceration now seemed unattainable. Like many other justice-involved individuals, feelings of being forever stigmatized became a persistent thought— until she walked through our doors. Here, she found new possibilities: “I [participated in Fortune’s] two-week job readiness’ workshop, and it was [there] that they gave me the hope.”
Hope is what we’ve cultivated for the last 50 years. Employment Services, Mental Health Services, Education, and more: Each of our solutions offer it in abundance. After completing our job readiness workshop, Hanna found it again, by applying then being accepted as an intern in our Employment Services program. After the internship was complete, she was hired as a career advisor, where she has found true fulfillment. “I love the interactions with [my participants,]” she notes, “that’s what brings me here every day…”
Having an advisor like Hanna, one who truly understands what it is like to reenter the community, is often invaluable to individuals who face repeat acts of discrimination in society. For them, encouragement can mean the difference between discovering success and maintaining feelings of hopelessness. “I have a former [participant who was able to] secure [full-time] employment. One time, he told me:
“I just needed to hear that somebody believed in me, Hanna— that somebody knew I can do this.'”
These types of assurances are vital, especially when coupled with an individual determination to succeed. Unfortunately, the former is provided all too infrequently within incarceration facilities. And because Hanna had college experience prior to her justice involvement, even educational opportunities were unavailable. “I felt that it was a waste of time that [the justice system] didn’t help me transition back to the community.” she notes, “They didn’t help me with my resume, they didn’t provide computer training…” Still, she didn’t give up: “My rehabilitation was done by me.”
Now, she is committed to helping Fortune participants find hope in spite of the inadequacies of the system that incarcerates them. “I try to assist them and make sure that they don’t have any barriers that would keep them from employment…,” says Hanna. This may mean vocational training, such as through our Culinary Arts and Green Construction program, or obtaining a High School Equivalency diploma. Since the needs of every individual is unique, a keen, caring eye is a must-have characteristic for Hanna’s role. “I advocate for my participants because…they’re capable of doing so much more,” she shares.
Hanna’s passion for leading others to the hope she herself found is evident in all she does. Daily, she reminds others that regardless of their past, they are capable of moving forward. “We are not the mistakes we have made. We are not ‘those people.’ We are here,” she says, “When you come to Fortune, you’re seeking something different. You just need that encouragement to get you along.”