Voices of Hope Update – Rachel

In celebration of our 25th anniversary and Second Chance Month, we are commemorating our legacy of transformative impact on the people and communities we serve. We reached out to some of our former clients to see how they are doing now. Years after returning home, they are still applying what they have learned during their time here at Operation New Hope to achieve success and build a brighter future. 

Here is Rachel’s Voices of Hope Update:

Looking back, what was the hardest thing about the first year after you were released?

Mine was my first year sober. As my story of a brief arrest was in 2014, my one and only time in the justice system. I was not convicted because I didn’t have a record, but I was struggling with substance abuse. I finally went to treatment at Gateway in December 2019. In my 1st year of sobriety, the hardest thing was learning how to live this new closer to normal life and start over basically without any assets at 36 years old.”

I lost my parental rights to my two daughters when they were only 12 & 4 years old due to my addiction. My brother ended up adopting them when I was a year sober. It was absolutely devastating. I could have given up, but I continued to stay clean and sober.”

What are you up to now? Where are you working and how are you doing?
“Last I checked in with ONH, I was working for Amazon. I then went to work for a doctor’s office as my end goal has always been the medical field. Then I got a job offer for St. Vincent’s Hospital and started working there in 2021. I never even applied for any job like that before because I always thought that my past arrest would affect my background check, but ONH were the ones who did a deep dive into all of that and told me I could pass the level 2 background check. 

“I got engaged in 2021 and in April 2022, we welcomed a baby girl into our family. I am now a stay at home mom while she is still little. I’m so lucky her dad has a job that allows us to live comfortably off of one income. I whole heartily plan to go back to college and finish getting my registered nurse license. I do get to see my other daughters occasionally. They are now 17 and 10 years old. In fact, the oldest one has a great bond with her new little sister who actually will be turning 2 this year.

“If I didn’t remain sober, I would not be where I am today! Operation New Hope had a huge hand into how my life is today. I am forever grateful. I love you guys.”

What do you wish someone had told you about reentry?
“The things that seem very big and stressful in that first year won’t even matter that second year.
What have been the happiest moments since being released?

Having a new baby and getting to fulfill my Mom role again. It healed my Mama heart in more ways than one. I truly got a second chance.

What have you learned about yourself in the time since going through the Ready4Work program?
My past does not dictate my future. I can still be anything I want to be.”

What are your dreams and aspirations?
I want to be a nurse. I’ve always wanted to be a nurse for as long as I can remember – even when I was 5 years old it was my dream. I may be turning 40 this year, but it’s not going to stop me from going back to college and finishing what I started. My mom, God rest her soul, finished college after the age of 40 and became an elementary school teacher. I know it’s possible for me to go back to school no matter my age. “

What keeps you motivated?
“My children. I want them to grow up and be a better version of me.”

What achievements are you most proud of?
Getting sober and being able to stay clean for these last 4 years. My three daughters –  they’re such good kids, so I got lucky in that department. Finding happiness after surviving through a very dark time in my life and also just the gift of life I’m lucky that I’ve lived through my experience and come out on the other side. Not everyone makes it through addiction.”

What do you wish others knew about the criminal justice system?
I think we need more programs to help people get back on their feet just like Operation New Hope does. People that have been to jail or prison are human beings just like you and me and everyone.”

If you could change one thing about the criminal justice system, what would it be?
More rehabilitation, more second chances, and sometimes third chances.”

What does HOPE mean to you?
Never giving up and always believing.”

How do you hope your story can inspire or support others?
It helps others to see people that have been through it and come out on the other side. If I can do it, you can do it and that’s a fact!

Is there anything else you would like to share?
My sobriety date is December 12th, 2019. That’s going to be 5 years at the end of 2024! Do not give up on your dreams because anything is possible. It just takes willingness and HOPE!”

Rachel with her partner and new baby
Rachel with her two oldest daughters

At Operation New Hope, we believe that we are all better than our worst mistake, worst day, or worst decision. We believe in people’s ability to transform their lives through commitment and hard work. We see it every day as we support our clients’ reentry and growth. With the skills learned and confidence gained from our Ready4Release, Ready4Work and Ready4Success programs, our participants go on to become productive community members and build successful careers earning living wages. Read more stories of transformation, success and hope!

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