When approaching this story on second chance employment, I imagined I would speak with employers and see their point of view. But, what I quickly failed to realize is the power that programs like JUMPSTART hold when they transform the lives of those who are formerly incarcerated.
When I reached out to Jordan Durham to work on this story, she was immediately helpful and set something up for me to come and speak with Jeremy Walker, the Chief of Staff, and Justin Durrell, the Director of Operations. I did not know that when I walked in to meet Jordan, I would be intruding on a morning meeting where they were discussing their group read of Atomic Habits and quickly invited me to join the meeting and listen to their discussion that ended with a prayer. I quickly noticed that this program is hands-on and that it is so successful because of the people behind it.
When I spoke to Jeremy, he was so open and honest about his past and how he ended up at JUMPSTART. From serving time in Allendale to working at UPS to becoming the Inside Program Administrator, it was apparent that he wanted to help others the way the inside program of JUMPSTART helped him. He shared with me how JUMPSTART helps people learn how to develop a budget; apply for job interviews; and provide them with housing and transportation. That is what stuck with me - for many of these people, the hurdle does not just stop at getting a job; it also is being able to get to and from the job and to and from the interview. When I sat at that morning meeting, the team pulled up the schedule, which was filled with different colors and time blocks of when participants had interviews or work and which person would be taking them to their destination. Following my conversation with Jeremy, I knew my story of how this program is successful is rooted in his own story. His willingness to tell me his past and the ways that he grew from JUMPSTART and aims to do the same for others was inspiring, and I felt like a representation of everything this organization strives to be.
When I walked over to the housing complex right outside of the office, I instantly noticed the multitude of prayers lining the walls. There was a bible verse right over the entryway, along with posters of different verses and a constant reminder of the faith-driven motive behind JUMPSTART.
Second-chance employment gives people a chance to start over and adjust back to a society that kept moving while they served time. But, it is programs like JUMPSTART that do much more than just find people a job, they help them create a new life. Employees like Jeremy and Justin work to give back the help they once received. As Jeremy put it, “It is a labor of love.”
Gracie Rorie, Senior Broadcast and Journalism Major at USC