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Keith, Shannon and Rashad

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“It feels like a family. They put you on a better path. I want something better for myself now. They give chances to people that other people would just write off,” says Rashad.

THREE JOB CORPS MEMBERS TALK ABOUT ALIVE & FREE

How did you come to the Job Corps and Alive & Free?

K.P. I had dropped out of college and was just kind of hanging around the house, not doing much. I went to the Job Corps training program, and they offered rides to Alive & Free. I liked what I was hearing, so I started going consistently. I just liked the vibe there, and over a little time, I fell in love with it. Now I’m enrolled at Laney College, majoring in psychology with a minor, maybe, in acting. I also hope is to help people. I feel like I really want to talk with people about their problems and give them some help.

S.C. I was sitting around, too, because I’d been injured on my job. I needed to be doing something; it’s not good to be doing nothing. My cousins had been part of the Job Corps in Los Angeles and San Francisco, so I went to the Job Corps culinary arts program on Treasure Island. I’m interested in the management and ownership side of the food industry. Rashad told me about Alive & Free. He told me there was too much to explain–that I should just go and find out about it. So I did, and it blew my mind. I’m thinking about college now, but haven’t made up my mind about everything. There are a lot of choices to make. I love everything about the culinary arts. I think if you get up and are excited about going to work, that’s where you should be. And I am.

R.D. I had a job, but I got laid off. I couldn’t pay my rent. I went to the Job Corps to get a certification so I could get hired back, with benefits, at the city where I’d been laid off. I heard about Alive & Free from Shervon Hunter. I was talking to her about wanting to go to college and she told me about Alive & Free–and got to Alive & Free, I changed my plans. I want something better for myself now. I’m studying at Laney College, looking to transfer to Howard University. I want to be a writer, especially screenplays.

You fell in love with it. It blew your mind. You want something better for yourself now. Obviously, Alive & Free is something special. In your opinion, what is it? Why do you think this program works?

R.D. They put you on a better path, but it’s hard to tell you how they do it. To see how it works, you have to be there. It’s different every week, but it always works.

K.P. It’s impossible to describe Alive & Free. As Rashad says, you have to be there. To try to explain it is like trying to explain the color green to someone who’s never seen green.

R.D. If I had to try to explain it, I’d say that they give it to you straight. No sugar coating. They tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. There aren’t any phonies there. But at the same time, there’s a lot of love. They look out for you. They seem to know when something’s wrong, and they’ll ask you about it and talk with you and help you.

K.P. Alive & Free is authentic. They really have a love for us. As Rashad said, no phonies. They want us to be in school rather than on the street.

The word love keeps coming up. Anything else?

S.C. Well, I’m in love with what I’m learning there, especially about African American heritage, history, and culture because that’s something that’s really important to me. I’m just intrigued with everything about the program. I’ve never seen so many people of color coming together with specific goals; we’re all trying to get someplace as one.

What is the one big lesson you’ve taken away?

S.C. That’s easy. Dare to be different. It means being able to deal with people, even if they’re criticizing me, without getting into a fight about it. So many people think you have to fight all the time, and that you shouldn’t read books or learn anything. Well, I do read, and I don’t fight. I’ll stand up for myself, but there’s a right way to do that. If I’m not going along with a group, I know they’re going to tell me I’m wrong or stupid or something. But I’ve stepped outside that. I don’t care what other people think or say about me. You know, if you drop an egg into hot water, the inside of the egg changes. I’d say my insides have changed, too–and maybe I can help other people learn to change.

R.D. Mine is, “You’re only one bad decision away,” because that’s true. I came to Omega with an “I don’t care” attitude. They helped me see that no matter what my situation is, it doesn’t give me the right to act out. There’s no excuse for bad manners. That attitude could have gotten me into a lot of trouble.

K.P. “What you spend your time doing is what you get good at.” That’s really true, whether what you’re doing is good or bad.

Can anyone here sum up the Alive & Free experience?

S.C. I can try. I sort of start each week over again on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. I know I’m different on Wednesdays and Fridays after those Tuesday and Thursday meetings. Alive & Free is where I get that little boost, that word of encouragement, that inspiration I need. I go out thinking about what I could do differently that week and the next. I get all my burners lit on those two evenings–and that carries me through the rest of the week.

K.P. It’s a family. It feels like a family, and everyone there plays a part in making that family. And my family has seen a change in me because of it.

R.D. That’s the truth. It’s not an organization. It’s a family. They give chances to people that other people would just write off. I guess I’d say it’s part therapy, part school, and part family. It’s a little like church. But it’s mostly about really being in a family.

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