When I was young, my parents were plagued by addiction and I had to live with my grandparents. I was 17 years old and was working for my grandfather’s landscaping company until I became a father. Unfortunately, I acted immaturely and decided to supplement my income with drug dealing.
From 1999 to 2008, I was in and out of prison with sentences ranging from thirty days to three-and-a-half years. The last time I was released from prison, my daughter was nine years old and she asked me not to leave her again. With tears rolling down my cheeks, I looked in her eyes and promised I would never put myself in that position again.
This is a promise I have kept. I left behind everything that had to do with that lifestyle. I surrounded myself with positive people and uplifting books. I essentially wanted to teach myself how to be a productive member of society.
I went back to work for my grandfather with hope in my heart. I know there is no shortcut to success and you have to respect the process. Unfortunately, a disastrous health crisis in 2011 almost took my life. I survived, but was very weak. I started going to the gym to regain strength and devoured more books. Did I mention I love to read?
For five years I worked with my grandfather, but my doctor advised me to look for a different profession. I was confident I would find something I enjoyed more, but the hardest part about a criminal background is the rejection you get when you apply for a job. No one wants to give you second chance and that’s demoralizing.
In 2016, I reached out to Triad Goodwill and asked for help and was met with open arms! The Jobs on the Outside program (J.O.T.O). is a four-day intensive class that taught me how to tell my story in a positive light, create a resume, properly interview for a job, and effectively communicate with people in a professional setting. Most importantly, J.O.T.O. gave me the HOPE that I needed to push forward and accomplish all of these things. I will be forever grateful and indebted to Goodwill for this.
After graduating from J.O.T.O., I was hired for a position within Triad Goodwill and by the end of my first day, I knew that was where I belonged. I spent every day helping people and sharing the hope that was so freely given to me. After the first person came in and genuinely thanked me for helping them, I was hooked. I approach every situation and person the same: What can I do to help you believe in yourself?
This job gives me more personal satisfaction than anything else. I go to sleep thinking about how I can help, I wake up ready to help, and every day at work I help people find gainful employment. I spent the first part of my life taking away from my community. I plan to spend the rest of my life giving back.
NOTE: As a sign of his success, Jason won two awards this year and was named Rookie of the Year for 2017 by Goodwill Industries of Central North Carolina, Inc. This is a very rare achievement. He has also been interviewed by media and will be profiled in the January 2018 issue of 1808 magazine for a feature on “Overcomers.”