Goodwill Industries of the Valleys

Life After Incarceration: A Former Prisoner’s Reflection on Goodwill’s Career Navigation Program

Virginia releases roughly 229,418 men and 67,496 women from its prisons and jails each year. In the realm of reentry programs and career navigation, Goodwill Industries of the Valleys has emerged as a beacon of hope for individuals seeking a fresh start. One Virginian’s transformative journey from the prison system to ushering systemic change in his community paints a vivid picture of empowerment, resilience, and unwavering commitment to bettering oneself.

Bernard Taylor always assumed that Goodwill was just a clothing store. After serving 25 years at Bland Correctional Center, the Roanoke native returned to his hometown and sought support to restart his life. Taylor’s story with Goodwill began through Career Navigation, where he was partnered with a career navigator. This marked the beginning of a transformation that would redefine Taylor’s life trajectory.

The Career Navigation program offers clients a holistic approach tailored to help people achieve their goals. Taylor wanted to get employed as soon as he could. After he completed his resume, job search, and other work readiness activities through Career Navigation, Mack Trucks offered him a position as an Assembly Line Worker. After he received his job offer, Goodwill was again able to assist Taylor with the clothing and tools he needed on the job.

“This was the first time that I came to an organization that would give me the chance to excel forward,” said Taylor. “The only way we can become great is to have a great team around us. Goodwill is that team. No matter your age, your challenges, your background, their programs make you better.”

Aspiring to help others reenter society post-prison, Taylor’s next goal was to obtain an associate degree in human services. Goodwill connected him to community partners such as Virginia Career Works and Virginia Western Community College. Not long after, Taylor was asked to become a speaker for the Department of Corrections at their re-entry events. After the DOC received his proposal, the city mayor’s office and sheriff’s office invited him to share his story and offer guidance on how the city could better serve those in the reentry community.

Upon reintegration into society, there are many challenges that can get in someone’s way. Taylor emphasizes the importance of structured support systems, especially for those navigating substance abuse, mental health issues, or educational barriers. With Goodwill’s guidance, Taylor envisioned a program called “Why Me?” to assist individuals facing similar hurdles. Ultimately, Taylor would like to start his own transitional housing program.

“I want to show people going through what I went through that there is a next level. Reentering life on the outside does not have to be the next prison,” said Taylor.

Throughout Taylor’s journey, he learned the importance of adaptability and resilience. Despite facing setbacks and unforeseen circumstances, Taylor remained steadfast in their pursuit of success. Career Navigation’s personalized approach, crafting Individual Development Plans tailored to each client’s aspirations, underscored Goodwill’s commitment to facilitating meaningful career transitions.

Beyond providing employment opportunities, Goodwill’s Career Navigation program fosters a genuine sense of community and purpose.

“If you’ve been given the resources, like a runner when the baton is passed, the race is now in your hands. It’s your time to take it to the next level,” said Taylor. “I don’t look at Goodwill like an entity. Goodwill allows you to take your life to the next level. I’ve been given hope and security that I can take advantage of the resources Goodwill offers to take me there.”

Through Goodwill’s Career Navigation program, Taylor regained his sense of purpose and self-worth after his imprisonment. His story exemplifies the profound impact of organizations like Goodwill and career counselors in fostering second chances and empowering individuals to rewrite their futures.

“To me, Goodwill’s value is unending,” said Taylor. “If you have a backpack filled with resources like Goodwill has, anyone could be successful. If we are given hope, we can carry it with us toward the promise of a better tomorrow.”

Learn more about Career Navigation services through Goodwill Industries of the Valleys.

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