Written by Sienna Walenciak, Televerde Foundation Volunteer and Contributing Writer
The goal of Second Chance Month is to raise awareness and improve perceptions of people with a criminal record, encourage second-chance opportunities, and drive momentum for policy change throughout the country. We hope the stories shared by these women open more eyes to the incredible passion and talent within the incarcerated community, building greater advocacy for second chances and the people who need and deserve them.
The month of April marked Second Chance Month when we reaffirmed as a nation that everyone is more than their worst mistake and we see it as a moral imperative to help formerly incarcerated people reenter society and become contributing citizens. As a non-profit organization whose mission is to empower individuals impacted by incarceration, we view a Second Chance as another opportunity to share second-chance success stories. These are women who have moved beyond stigma to strength because they were given the opportunity, support, and a runway to fly! They show us that a second chance can be life-changing, and that people can and do change.
“For me, turning around meant starting over. Despite the love of family, being well-educated, and the hope of a bright future I veered in the wrong direction – one of destruction, and ultimately, incarceration.”
The word prison is not usually synonymous with transformation, but for me, that is exactly what the experience became. Facing a 6.5-year sentence, I made a conscious decision to spend the time productively by opening myself up to anything that would help me become the most successful version of myself. That consisted of self-help, recovery, growing in my faith, and applying for Televerde.
Televerde invests in incarcerated women by providing life-changing opportunities. Once hired, I received deep education in sales and marketing and applied my skills each day by generating revenue for Televerde clients. The skills I gained while incarcerated have allowed me to confidently re-enter society.
To prepare for release, all Televerde employees are eligible to attend PATHS Reentry, a transitional support program offered through the non-profit organization, Televerde Foundation. The program is designed to ensure women have everything they need to develop fulfilling and economically rewarding careers. The number of resources and support I’ve been given upon release has allowed me to transition back into society easily. I’m not saying I haven’t had challenges, everyone does, but I now know where my power is.
Today, I am emotionally intelligent. I know how to build and develop healthy relationships and let go of my past. I have turned my life around. Stable, successful, and independent describe my life today. Thank you to Televerde and the Televerde Foundation for championing me and believing in me. I am living proof of how a second chance can empower people to find hope and self-worth and rediscover themselves.”
“Growing up in the inner city, I was a “straight A” honor roll student and continued it when I moved to the suburbs. I was an only child until I turned 15 when I got the little brother I’d always wanted. After high school, I went straight to Ball State University and loved every minute of it. After falling in love, I moved to Fort Wayne. My life was work, school, and bills for the next three years. After a breakup, I was alone in a city I didn’t know.
I met and fell in love with the father of my now thirteen-year-old daughter. It quickly turned into an emotionally and physically abusive relationship. After a brief time, the situation grew so unbearable that I could no longer bear it. My life continued to devolve, and poor decisions ultimately led me to a 15-year prison sentence. At the youthful age of 21 years old, I thought that was the end of my life. But I made a choice. I would continue to fight for myself and one day reunite with my daughter.
One day, I heard about an open house for Televerde, a B2B sales and marketing company specializing in inside sales and demand generation. I had never worked in a call center environment. I also lacked technology understanding and business acumen. But I didn’t let what I was deficient in deter me from applying. Much to my surprise, I was hired and gave every day thereafter my all! Televerde was the first place I worked where I felt a sense of belonging. This is because the culture is built on continuous learning and caring for and supporting each other. I thrived professionally while financially supporting my family.
I’ve been with Televerde for seven years. Since my release, I’ve hit the ground running financially from my savings and current role as a business development representative. The Televerde Foundations’ PATHS Programs have connected me with amazing resources for interview and resume readiness. We even had leaders from JP Morgan Chase teach us financial literacy, which has made me a better financial planner.
Having this second chance taught me to believe in myself again and to see the value and potential I bring to my family and work. I truly believe that a second chance is the best gift you can give someone, and I thank Televerde and Televerde Foundation for gifting me with one.”
“Every day, I thank Televerde. Televerde is a business, but its people make it unique. Every single person is committed to making their peers successful, no matter where they come from. In the Televerde center inside the Arizona women’s prison where I once worked, my strengths became the focus rather than my mistakes. My value was based on who I was at that moment and where I could go. I had never experienced this before. This gave me a sense of belonging and value. Televerde gave me the opportunity and further empowered me with the skills, support, and resources I needed to find and fulfill my potential. That deep nurturing awakened my business professional side!
The Televerde Foundation earns my thanks every day too. It takes a lot to keep women banded together but we are and that’s because of our love and respect for one another. There is continuous encouragement and availability. The foundation’s programs help us stay focused on development and growth and remind us that change happens one step at a time.
I’ve been out of prison for less than one year. I have a new car…a Nissan Sentra that I call “Betty White.” She’s built for efficiency, not speed! When the housing market stabilizes, I plan to buy a home. That’s a nod to the foundation right there! Before my incarceration, I didn’t know a thing about housing market values. Because of the foundation’s financial literacy class, I now understand concepts including saving, investing, and debt, which brings me greater independence and has increased my confidence.
Thanks to a second chance, I am where I am today. Second Chance Month is about forgiveness and grace and ensuring that no one is forever trapped by their worst decision.”
“Tragic events in my personal life led to bad decisions and unhealthy habits. As a result, I was incarcerated. These events changed my life, but in ways that may surprise you.
While imprisoned, I worked for a company that empowers women with marketable business skills and technology training. This level of skill building helped increase my competitiveness in the global job market, better preparing me for release. This company is Televerde.
Deciding to join Televerde set me on a path to change my life and build a better future where I could reclaim independence and support my family. While incarcerated, I did amazing things. Here are a few highlights:
- I’ve held positions in Operations and IT, expanding my knowledge of how business works…just like anyone who isn’t incarcerated.
- I’ve had meaningful discussions with C-level executives in a professional business environment…just like anyone who isn’t incarcerated.
- I’ve partnered with the Corporate Application Development team to successfully deliver proprietary products enterprise-wide…just like anyone who isn’t incarcerated.
- I’ve configured several Salesforce organizations to strategically align our external partners with our internal teams for successful campaign outcomes…just like anyone who isn’t incarcerated.
All these milestones have enabled me to build a successful business career. What I’m most proud of, however, are the life-changing experiences that have strengthened me personally.
- I am part of a community of strong women who encourage and inspire me to be the truest version of myself.
- I have attended the Televerde Foundation’s PATHS Program. This has given me the tools to have a healthy mindset and a successful transition home.
- I’ve made the most of a second chance because the Televerde family believed in me and pushed me to believe in myself.
- I have an offer letter from Televerde in hand before my prison release.
Today, I am a success story, not a statistic.
I am not alone. I am one of many people who have gone through the prison system and come out stronger on the other side. I was able to do this because I was given a second chance.
I hope my story inspires more people to give someone a second shot to find and fulfill their potential. I wouldn’t be where I am without that, and I have immense gratitude to Televerde and Televerde Foundation for believing in me before I did.”