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For Mike, high school was straightforward; he was a decent student and a member of the JROTC. But after graduation, Mike realized his future wasn’t going to be as straightforward. Falling in with the wrong crowd and a few bad decisions led to two felony assault convictions and Mike spent much of his late teens and early twenties in and out of the Carroll County Detention Center. This was not the future he had pictured for himself, and he realized he was going to need help to become more than the “criminal” society would see him as because of his record.

Mike came to Opportunity WORKS, part of HSP’s Workforce Development Program that offers hands-on job training, intensive case management, and financial education for those with serious barriers to employment such as criminal records, substance abuse history, or mental health struggles. Through the program, he learned how to properly communicate in the workplace, built confidence in his own skills and abilities, and searched for work opportunities. Mike appreciated the dedication of the Opportunity WORKS staff saying, “They drove me to job interviews. Anything I needed, they helped me out.”

The training Mike received at Opportunity WORKS helped him land a job a Jiffy Lube. He achieved success, earning multiple promotions, and became the top seller and customer service representative at his store. While working at Jiffy Lube, Mike still volunteered with HSP and the Workforce Development Program. He participated in focus groups, represented the Opportunity WORKS program at community events, and even recruited participants.

Mike was building a new future for himself, but he still had bigger goals. He wanted to apply for college to study social work and eventually become a case manager. He never thought he would get an opportunity to start working in the field before he finished school.

When HSP posted an opening for a new job coach, Mike had the confidence to apply for the job because it was something he knew he wanted to be a part of. He was particularly qualified, having gone through the program himself. He believed he could help other people because his own story was proof that the lessons he learned would work when applied in the workplace.

Mike still wants to go to school, and having already filled out his financial aid paperwork, he is well on his way to achieving that goal. “There is no such thing as being beyond redemption,” he says, “I just want to continue helping people.” And that’s exactly what he is doing every day as the new job coach at Opportunity WORKS, helping participants work on their resumes, learn essential workplace skills, and develop the habits that are necessary to get and keep a job.

Mike summarizes his work as “doing what we can to make sure that our participants know their worth, know what they can do, and work towards any dream they have.”

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