Candid Conversation with PATHS Graduate Ashlee Liberty

How long were you incarcerated? I was incarcerated for 10 years. Tell us about your transition. The transition to my current life has been remarkably smooth. I am proud to say that I am one of the inaugural graduates of the Televerde Foundation Career PATHS program, having joined during its pilot phase. Following my graduation, I became a part of Televerde Foundation team, and from there, I transitioned to a rewarding role with the foundation. I have achieved significant milestones since my release, such as purchasing a new car and securing my own place. Moreover, I am currently enrolled in Project Management classes at Arizona State University. My professional life has been incredibly fulfilling, allowing me to hit the ground running. I have even had the opportunity to travel for work and am looking forward to an upcoming vacation. The unwavering support I have received from the entire team, my fellow program graduates, and even those still incarcerated has been pivotal in facilitating my reintegration into society. This guidance and encouragement have made my journey much easier. Reintegrating into my family was one of the biggest challenges I faced upon my release from prison. During my incarceration, I had limited contact with them, so reestablishing a sense of normalcy in our relationship and allowing myself to embrace their love and connect more deeply with them required effort and adjustment. Another hurdle was adapting to the significant changes in technology. I had been incarcerated since 2013, and the technological landscape had evolved during that time. However, I was fortunate to have the unwavering support of the Televerde Foundation staff during my initial stages outside of prison. They provided invaluable guidance and assistance every step of the way. From accompanying me on my first grocery trip to helping me open a bank account and offering support for any challenges I encountered, they left no stone unturned in their commitment to my success. What did the PATHS programs do for you? The Televerde Foundation PATHS program has been transformative for me, fostering introspection, helping me identify necessary changes, and equipping me with the resources to effect those changes. The program is characterized by its hands-on approach, involving dedicated officers who continue to be a source of learning even now, as I serve as a facilitator. One remarkable evolution within the program is the integration of project management. Now, the participants can take this course, and I am genuinely excited to witness how much the program has evolved. When I initially enrolled, I had no inkling that a career in project management was within my grasp. However, as I progressed through the program, it became evident that organization was a significant strength of mine. It was Michelle Cirocco, Televerde Foundation’s CEO, who astutely pointed out that I had the potential for a rewarding project management career. I am profoundly thankful that the foundation not only imparts general skills but also helps us recognize and harness our individual strengths, enabling us to unlock our full potential. Thanks to the Televerde Foundation, I discovered that project management is my true calling and I relish the opportunity to engage in tangible projects from inception to completion. It is a path I am excited to pursue wholeheartedly. What are you working on today? In my current role as a Program Specialist at the foundation, my primary responsibility is to support and guide other women as they navigate the transformative journey of the PATHS program. This involves not only facilitating their training but also carefully identifying areas where the program can be further improved to enhance its effectiveness. One of the most fulfilling aspects of my work is the opportunity to be actively involved in numerous projects within the organization. These projects not only broaden my horizons but also allow me to make a positive impact on more women as they progress through the PATHS program. It is incredibly rewarding to witness firsthand the transformation and growth of the women we serve, and I take pride in contributing to their success and empowerment. What do you wish more people knew about incarcerated women? There is a profound message I hope to convey about incarcerated women, one that urges people to exercise patience and withhold judgment before forming opinions about them. It is crucial to recognize that news reports often omit critical details, leaving room for potentially one-sided narratives. My sincere wish is for individuals to approach these women’s stories with an open heart, to patiently listen to their experiences, and to understand that there are dangers to one-sided stories that may not always reflect the full truth. What does your life look like in the future? I am eagerly anticipating my project management certification in May, and I am filled with unwavering optimism about the future. My vision knows no bounds, and I wholeheartedly believe that the Televerde Foundation has empowered me to soar to new heights and realize any dream I set my sights on. As proof of the Foundation’s impact on my life, I had set a one-year goal upon my release, and astonishingly, I achieved all aspects of that goal within just seven months. This achievement has compelled me to set even more ambitious objectives for myself. My firm commitment lies in pursuing a career in project management and contributing to the expansion of the Televerde Foundation. I am also eager to play a pivotal role in the launch of one of its new workforce development centers, furthering the Foundation’s mission and extending its reach to empower more women like me on their transformative journeys. What advice do you have for incarcerated women? I often convey to the women I work with that their potential knows no bounds, and I am a living testament to the fact that they too can achieve remarkable things. It is possible for anyone to overcome their past and emerge from the prison experience with a renewed sense of purpose and determination. The prison experience can serve as a catalyst, igniting a fierce drive within them to reintegrate into society as productive and valuable members of society. The best version of everyone still resides within them, waiting to be rediscovered. It is essential to take a moment for introspection, identify where things may have gone awry, and start retracing one’s steps from that point. Joy and strength can be found anew. I implore them not to give up on themselves; they still possess the authentic essence of who they were before their paths took a different turn.