My Story: Deneal Trueblood-Lynch

April is Second Chance Month, and we are highlighting the work that is being done by Goodwill organizations in local communities to help people get job training and earn employment to thrive after justice involvement.

Everyone deserves the opportunity to experience the power of work. A disability, lack of education, poverty or criminal history should not stand in anyone’s way when seeking employment. But the reality is, many people in our communities face challenges to finding work as a result of their circumstances.

In St. Paul, Goodwill-Easter Seals Minnesota (GESMN) helps open doors that may have appeared forever closed, unlocking the potential in each person seeking Goodwill’s assistance, including people involved in the criminal justice system.

In Minnesota, one in six children has experienced the incarceration of one of their parents, and more than 100,000 residents are behind bars or under criminal justice supervision. GESMN’s reentry program connects people to critical resources — case management, job training, housing assistance, medical services, mentoring and more — so they can be successful, contributing members of their communities.

The people we serve turn second chances into brighter futures.

One such person is Deneal Trueblood-Lynch, who used her second chance to become a college graduate and an accomplished actor/playwright.

After serving her sentence at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Shakopee, Deneal called her local Goodwill and got involved in the reentry program. She started working in a Goodwill retail store to gain work experience and, over the next several months, she began to reap the rewards of employment and opportunity.

Deneal attributes her success in part to the skills she learned and support she received through her participation in the Goodwill Reentry Opportunities to Work (GROW) Project’s mentoring group. After graduating from the group as a mentee, she received facilitation training and has served as a Goodwill mentorship program facilitator ever since, impacting the lives of dozens of mentees to this day.

Serving as a mentoring facilitator is just one way Deneal has leveraged her powerful voice to inspire, support and motivate others. Having written about her life-changing experiences during incarceration, she went on to direct and star in “Secrets,” a play about her life experiences, which she produced with faculty support while she was a student at Metropolitan State University. She says her playwriting journey was a crucial step that opened discussions about her own childhood trauma, family secrets and injustices, which ultimately led to her incarceration. She says her goal is to have her life experiences touch at least one other person who has suffered in silence.

That hope has since come to fruition many times over. Deneal’s is a powerful voice that inspires hope in the community, both in the theater and in the mentoring classroom. Hers is a voice that we hope continues to grow and inspire others for many years to come.

The Goodwill Reentry Opportunities to Work (GROW) program is made possible with a grant award of $4.5 million, from the U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration. The GROW program serves 580  justice-involved participants offered by five subgrantees from across the Goodwill network. GROW programs provide a multitude of occupational trainings and credentialing pathways towards achieving economic mobility.