JEVS Human Services is one of ten national finalists in the 2018 Minds That Move Us Adult Career Pathways Challenge, coordinated by the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL) in partnership with the Coalition for Adult Basic Education (COABE) and the National Association for State Directors for Adult Education (NASDAE), with funding from the ECMC Foundation.

Our team attended the Minds That Move Us Design Camp in Nashville in August, and will continue to develop and refine our innovative idea — career pathway connections for returning citizens with disabilities— over the next year. This experience is providing the opportunity to connect with national nonprofit, policy, and funding partners who are focused on adult career pathway development.

Continuing our conversation about this project (read our first installment), we asked two of our cross-program team members–one from our employer services group and one from our PA CareerLink® location — why this project is important to them.  Here’s what they had to say:

Souleymane Fall, Director, Employment Services 

Minds that Move Us is a great and valuable project. I believe it will continue to help break silos and identify many resources for our returning citizens. I strongly think that the assessment part plays a key role in identifying challenges and needs.  It improves the probability that upon leaving prison, they will be able to adjust to community life, which may, in turn, reduce the likelihood that they will return to prison.

I have witnessed many clients who say they want to feel valued and listened to. In my experience, it is important to listen to the participants and get their buy in, too. I think great case management creates collaboration. I have worked with many individuals who stated to me that they are ashamed to disclose their disabilities. They are always looking for a safe environment, a person who they can trust. I strongly believe that creating that environment is key to helping them achieve their overall goals.

I don’t think that prison health can be addressed in isolation from the health of the general population since there is a constant inter-change between the prison and the broader community, be it through the guards, the administration, the health professionals and the constant admission and release of prisoners. I do think that prison health must therefore be seen as a part of public health. I believe that addressing the mental health needs of returning citizens can decrease incidents of re-offending, reduce the number of people who return to prison, help divert people with mental disorders away from prison into treatment and rehabilitation and ultimately reduce the high costs of prisons.

Jian Lin, WIOA Workforce Advisor Team Lead, PA CareerLink® 

I have been working at PA CareerLink® Suburban Station in the WIOA department for the last three years. Every day we service youth, Veterans, adults, dislocated workers, returning citizens, and job seekers with disabilities. With such a diverse population coming through our Center, most of the services and workshops are not catered to a specific demographic, which is why I think JEVS’ Minds that Move Us project is going to make an impact for returning citizens with disabilities.

I think one of the challenges of this project is building trust and rapport with the individuals. When I look at the number of WIOA participants that self-identify as a returning citizen, that number is quite low. I believe there are more returning citizens that we are serving. However, they might not be disclosing that information. Another challenge that I see is getting employers on board to hire returning citizens. I think some employers are not aware of the financial benefits of hiring a returning citizen.

After being involved in JEVS Minds that Moves Us project, I can say that the answers lie within this project. I think this project can foster that trust with returning citizens. I also believe this project will prepare them for the workforce and connect them with employment opportunities. I have no doubt in my mind that this project will make hope happen.

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