If you asked me to sum up my life, I’d probably say that I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time doing the wrong thing and making wrong decisions. So much so that I’ve spent many years in prison with the Arizona Department of Corrections (DOC). I’m not proud of my past, but I am proud of the progress I’ve made to course correct.
On May 14, 2018, I was released from the Arizona Department of Corrections Perryville. On Nov. 1, 2019, I walked into a different prison, the Madison Correctional Facility in Indiana, in a capacity I would have never thought possible. I was no longer incarcerated, I was there to help open Televerde’s newest engagement center. This is not a future that seems possible when you’ve spent much of your life behind bars.
How did I get here?
While incarcerated at Perryville I had the chance to work for Televerde, a sales and marketing company that hires, compensates and trains incarcerated women for professional career positions through on-the job experience. I started as a sales development representative and worked my way up to a training position. I could sit in my chair in my engagement center, in prison, and figuratively travel the world by training my colleagues who sat in corporate offices around the globe. It gave me the confidence and skills I needed to succeed when I was released.
I was hired at Televerde’s corporate office when I returned home last May, and I’ve loved every minute of this working world on the “outside.” But I never in my wildest dreams would have thought that anyone would have tasked me with helping to open a brand-new engagement center in a prison some 1,700 miles away.
The Journey to Indiana
I flew from Phoenix to Indiana with a ton of luggage and a lot of nerves. Could I do this? Would I fail? Why would anyone trust me to do this!?
For the next month I worked next to Televerde ladies who had transferred from Rockville Correctional to Madison Correctional and colleagues from our corporate office to help stand-up our new Madison Engagement Center. We plugged in computers, took calls from the warden, and made mistakes along the way. I couldn’t help but think during this time, what other company would entrust a rag-tag group of “felons” with this awesome responsibility? This is the Televerde business model. It’s not just a good cause or pretty words on paper, it is a tangible, life-altering model that can and has moved mountains! Televerde knows the caliber of its employees in its DOC engagement centers and puts that trust into action by affording incredible opportunities to all who raise their hands.
From meetings with the warden and her staff, daily count and organizing the various supplies/equipment needed that make an office productive, I learned that while I still have a lot to learn, I could absolutely do this. Being a part of something bigger than myself motivated every choice I made. These daily mantras guided my actions: think things through. Don’t make a permanent decision based on temporary emotions. Breathe and ask for help. I learned all of these coping mechanisms when I was incarcerated. I now understand why adults need to repeat things in order to learn something new. Repetition is key to break through our old stigmas!
At our Madison Engagement Center, we call our team the Mighty Madison Mustangs. Each of the women there came through in true Televerde style and brought characteristics that made this new adventure exciting. But more importantly, they taught me the power of women determined to rise! The hope was palpable as the days passed and increased with every new accomplishment made, no matter how small: coffee service, supplies, first deliverables, etc. My heart is full because of these women and the many lessons and memories I brought home from Indiana.
Many people question the validity of second chances. I, and many others just like me, would never have known a different version of myself existed without them. Imagine going through life and never realizing your full potential because you weren’t given a second chance to prove yourself. I am so thankful that Televerde is full of people who have been shown this power and now go to great lengths to be different. I am proud to be counted among them.