It took just one week for Cinthia Candelaria to see the transformative impact of The Fortune Society. Withdrawn at first (“I was a little to myself, just kind of wanted to get it over with”), by the end of the first week she opened up: “I was looking forward to the next Monday.”
What did she see? A supportive community, with staff members who deeply cared for her wellbeing: “…it was my counselor specifically, Simone Shultz—and then Angel Gonzales. He was one of the first instructors to make me feel welcome,” she says, “It just made me embrace the fact that I actually did have an addiction.”
Addiction: a word that was new for Cinthia to own. With few interactions with the criminal justice system prior to a court-ordered mandate to come to Fortune, she didn’t see her substance use as something she couldn’t handle.
But a group in our Substance Use program called Seeking Strength, facilitated by Angel Gonzales, helped her see that substance use was indeed hindering her ability to gain control of a thriving future. True to its name, she uncovered personal strength in this group, and began insisting to her loved ones that they play a role in its continued development.
Today, a courageous Cinthia, with a tighter network of support (“I cut a lot of people off,” she notes), focuses on developing her creative and professional talents with a clear mind. Through our Creative Arts program, she is reconnecting with a long, lost love: the theater. Her acting resume now includes a production of As You Like It with Fortune partner The Public Theater in their initiative Public Works. And she now has experience in music with Creative Time and artist Phil Collins, through an art project called Bring Down The Walls. She was also involved in Road Recovery’s Road Trax Program. Plus, her writing skills are being sharpened in a writing class led by Fortune teacher Jamie Maleszka.
Fueled by creativity, she now has power to help others let go of weaknesses and embody strength. After completing an internship in our Employment Services program, her journey has led her from Fortune participant to mentor, an outcome that would not have been possible without her determination to fundamentally change.
*Article by David Leon Morgan