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Growing up, I came from a great family with two working class parents and made straight A’s. But after graduating college, I fell into the wrong crowd and became addicted to the glamorous club lifestyle. Before I knew it, my face was broadcast across the evening news as part of a big drug take down, and I was facing prison time. When the judge read my sentence in months, I felt like my heart was outside of my chest.
You have to grow up fast and turn into a different person inside prison. However, I learned to make something out of nothing and met some beautifully talented woman while incarcerated. People have this wrong perception about people with a record. Most of us get rehabilitated. We made a mistake. We pay for our mistake. And we just want to get back to being productive members of society.
That’s why I am so thankful for Operation New Hope. After prison, I was so ashamed, broken, and dehumanized. I suffered high levels of anxiety, fearing that at any minute a police officer would send me back. I also had a lot of trouble finding work because of my 10 year probation. But the people at Operation New Hope helped me overcome all the barriers and focused on what I needed to move forward. The head of the organization, Mr. Gay, even wrote letters on my behalf to the judge and culinary institute so that I could pursue my dream of becoming a chef.
Since graduating from the Ready4Work program in 2010, my life has changed so much. I have gone on to work as a caterer at a high volume hotel in Miami Beach, and I was a contestant on two Food Network competitions. I’ve recently been building my own catering business – Cake Dreams of Miami. My goal is to grow my catering business into a full brand, and ultimately, I would love to have a kitchen that is run entirely by formerly incarcerated individuals. I want to give back to society the way Operation New Hope gave to me.
Lastly, I am so excited to share that I recently regained my right to vote and voted in my first election since 2000. I am so proud of everything that I have accomplished!