Focus Area: The Annette Ensley Ladders of Opportunity Program
The Fortune Society is a reentry program in based in New York City with a vision that all who are incarcerated or formerly incarcerated will thrive as positive, contributing members of society. The Fortune Society works with 6,000 individuals annually to provide a continuum of care that encompasses housing, employment services, education, mental health, substance abuse treatment, and health and family services. The organization is also a partner to The Nathan Cummings Foundation in its efforts to open pathways to successful reentry for returning citizens.
Stacy Royster, an intern at the Nathan Cummings Foundation and Fortune Society alumna, recently spoke about her experience at the Fortune Society’s Annual Fall Benefit. Below are the remarks that she shared:
On January 9th 2013, I came home from serving 13 years in a state prison. Nervousness consumed me. How would I ever find my place in society? Would I be able to adjust? Was I going to be able obtain meaningful employment; especially being a black woman who was formally incarcerated. I had many negative thoughts to say the least.
Luckily, one day I met two individuals that would change my outlook, David Silva and John Dawson. They were a part of employment services for The Fortune Society. They each told a room full of strangers their stories, and some of their experiences opened my eyes. Not only did their experiences open my eyes but the positions they held at Fortune. It was exciting to see people who were formally incarcerated giving back to the community. It was then when I realized that I too, could gain meaningful and satisfying employment. They helped me see that I could rise above society’s standards; that there were opportunities for me.
One very rewarding opportunity that I received, and earned, was my internship at The Nathan Cummings Foundation. A non-profit foundation that is rooted in the Jewish tradition and makes grants in the areas of Inequality and Climate Change. Although I was excited about working there, I quickly learned that my time incarcerated created some really bad habits, such as, problems with authority/supervisors. I also struggled with absences. I couldn’t see the importance of my role within a company. This led to difficulties in the work place. I eventually contacted David, from employment services, and he was kind enough to give me some much needed insight on how to be a really good worker and a better professional. David helped me see the importance of respecting my work and supervisors. He reminded me that all work relationships eventually develop through nurturing, respect and time. That the energy I put into my work will have an impact on my future. In order to advance within the organization this along with my own change in focus helped me become a more responsible individual. My supervisors also began to see my growth not only through my work but also through my change in attitude and my dedication to re-enroll in school. I became more focused on my work, became a better employee and team player. In combination with David’s advice and my own growth, it helped me to turn things around and I was ultimately rewarded with a permanent position.
The training that I received from The Fortune Society, along with the extra attention when needed outside of work hours, helped me receive various promotions within my organization. This personal and professional growth has given me substance and clarity and has empowered me to reach for higher heights. I am now also beginning to see my place in society as well as within The Nathan Cummings Foundation. I do still have difficulty embracing peoples’ comments about how far I have come but I do feel that I am on the right track.
I am thankful for The Fortune Society and their staff members because of all I have learned and their dedication in guiding and aiding me through my challenges and experiences.
I enjoy the very important work that we do and look forward to growing within the philanthropic world. So many amazing opportunities are ahead of us.