Breakthrough 2019 – Bettering Lives With Better Business

Breakthrough 2019 – Bettering Lives With Better Business

Breakthrough 2019 – Bettering Lives With Better Business

Is it possible to do good while making a profit?

The resounding answer from our jobs panel at Breakthrough 2019 was “yes.”

The big question, of course, is how to do it. We heard from mission-driven leaders in the business community dedicated to helping the disadvantaged access the social capital and soft and hard skills needed to excel and thrive:  

  • Michael Jones of Thrive Farmers, whose coffee and tea business not only serves great products but also sought to find an equitable way to support farmers. 
  • Donnell Woodson of FCS Ministries, which works with communities to provide solutions and job resources that uniquely suit a given community. 

Georgia Center for Opportunity’s Hiring Well, Doing Good (HWDG) initiative is dedicated to helping the disadvantaged find and thrive in work. HWDG seeks to understand the barriers that disadvantaged people face (such as lack of childcare, transportation, and housing). We also focus on the type of soft-skills training that is key to getting a job and progressing in it.

Check back soon for more content from Breakthrough 2019!

 

 

Breakthrough 2019 – Criminal Justice Reforms That Restore & Empower

Breakthrough 2019 – Criminal Justice Reforms That Restore & Empower

Breakthrough 2019 – Criminal Justice Reforms That Restore & Empower

Georgia ranks 4th nationwide in incarceration rates. One out of every 18 people are in jail, on probation, or on parole. And about 40 percent of Georgians have a criminal record.

These are just a few of the startling statistics on criminal justice in the Peach State. We know that one of the most significant consequences to a criminal record is the enormous barrier it poses to employment. Here again, Georgia is one of only a handful of states where a criminal offense stays on an ex-offender’s record forever. It can’t be expunged after a given period of time.

At Breakthrough 2019, we heard from Doug Ammar of the Georgia Justice Project who shared about criminal justice reform and its link to giving people a second chance at employment. The wonderful news is that a job is one key way to help ex-offenders not repeat their crimes and lead a fulfilling life.

Check back soon for more content from Breakthrough 2019!

Breakthrough 2019 – Bettering Lives With Better Business

Breakthrough 2019 – Bettering Lives With Better Business

Breakthrough 2019 – Bettering Lives With Better Business

Is it possible to do good while making a profit?

The resounding answer from our jobs panel at Breakthrough 2019 was “yes.”

The big question, of course, is how to do it. We heard from mission-driven leaders in the business community dedicated to helping the disadvantaged access the social capital and soft and hard skills needed to excel and thrive:  

  • Michael Jones of Thrive Farmers, whose coffee and tea business not only serves great products but also sought to find an equitable way to support farmers. 
  • Donnell Woodson of FCS Ministries, which works with communities to provide solutions and job resources that uniquely suit a given community. 

Georgia Center for Opportunity’s Hiring Well, Doing Good (HWDG) initiative is dedicated to helping the disadvantaged find and thrive in work. HWDG seeks to understand the barriers that disadvantaged people face (such as lack of childcare, transportation, and housing). We also focus on the type of soft-skills training that is key to getting a job and progressing in it.

Check back soon for more content from Breakthrough 2019!

 

 

Breakthrough 2019 – Businesses Investing In Student Readiness

Breakthrough 2019 – Businesses Investing In Student Readiness

Breakthrough 2019 – Businesses Investing In Student Readiness

We know that a traditional four-year college pathway isn’t the right choice for many students in Georgia. The harder part is figuring out which alternative pathway is the best.

Breaking ground in these areas are forward-thinking employers like Southwire, America’s leading manufacturer of wire and cable used for electricity distribution and transmission. Southwire’s 12 for Life apprenticeship program has become a national model for helping at-risk high-school students finish their education, attain marketable skills, and potentially move right into a tech job right after graduation. 

The program graduates anywhere from 50 to 75 students each year, drawn from eight high schools represented in three Georgia counties. Over 2,900 students have graduated the program over the last decade. Watch the video to hear Marsha Smith, who heads up 12 for Life, explain how the program is a catalyst for community-level change. 

“We’ve seen students go from being homeless to being interns in our facility to become full-time employees,” Marsha shares.

 

From prisoner to influencer: Tony’s story

From prisoner to influencer: Tony’s story

From prisoner to influencer: Tony’s story

The day that Tony Kitchens was released from prison in 1985, he did an unusual thing: He got down on the ground and created a fake “snow angel” on the grass.

“I was elated, but nervous. Free, but I didn’t know anything. The sun was very bright. Red was very red, green was very green,” Tony recalls.

Tony faced significant struggles early in his life. He grew up in segregation-era rural Georgia and Atlanta, in neighborhoods riddled with drugs and crime. His dad was an alcoholic and abused his mom.

Tony was incarcerated as a teenager for 12 years. After his release in 1985, he knew he had a choice to make—follow a path that would lead him back to prison, or make the hard choices that would provide him with a future.

For Tony, the choice was simple: “I knew one thing: Even if I had to sleep in a gutter, I wasn’t going back to prison.”

That’s not to say the road wasn’t challenging. Far from it, in fact.

 

Digging out after incarceration

At the time, Tony had no job, no formal training, and no education. He didn’t know how to communicate appropriately, and he suffered from feeling like an outsider all the time. He looked for a job, but his criminal record was a huge roadblock.

The big difference came when an employer took a chance on Tony and hired him at a service station pumping gas. The pay was just $5 an hour, and his commute was two hours by bus. But Tony didn’t mind—he was moving forward.

“I was always grateful for the small things, because I know what it was like to have nothing at all. I don’t complain about jobs,” says Tony.

 

A life transformed

Soon, Tony began to climb the economic ladder, pursuing an education and eventually earning a bachelor’s degree. Another monumental change came in his life when he married and had his son.

“Up to then, I would smoke two packs of cigarettes today. I decided to quit then and there and focus my life on someone other than myself,” Tony says. “That’s when I came to realize the more I focused on other people, the better I felt. I began to understand that everything wasn’t about me.”

Today, Tony has dedicated his life to helping other men and women, just like him, transition to a fulfilling life after prison. He is Field Director for Georgia for Prison Fellowship, and formerly served as a Prison In-Reach Specialist for the Georgia government.

And we’re thrilled to report that Tony recently joined our board of directors here at the Georgia Center for Opportunity.

From prisoner to influencer. And the key driver was a job.

 

Celebrating work

We’re celebrating the life-transforming power of work all during the month of October. Our groundbreaking, community-driven program Hiring Well, Doing Good offers a unique solution to chronic unemployment across Georgia. Learn more.

As Tony often shares, “I keep all my possibilities on my windshield and my prison experience in the rearview mirror. If you’re always looking in the rearview mirror, you’re going to run into something. In the end, I know that if my prison experience didn’t kill me then, no matter what I face today, I know it won’t kill me.”