Journey to a Non-Profit

Grew up eye-shot of La Tuna, Federal Correctional Institution, in Vinton, Texas. Living close enough to be part of the environment, I wondered what it was like to be on the inside.

Pushing several years into the future, I became a 16-year old outfielder with a family organized softball team. Scheduled to play against several prison (trustee) teams, we were given the privilege to go inside.

Frightened as our van approached for the first time, this 16-year old imagined hardened muggers, killers, rapists, and all around monsters. No doubt television and culture told me what to expect… I drank the juice.

Too often, reality and truth simply does not mean the same thing. I spoke to several of the monsters on the inside and before long, socially twisted perceptions was replaced with “how could I have gotten it so wrong?”

Backed by a lineage of family, direct and indirect, seeing both sides of freedom, I knew the men and women who have stumbled needed more than social/cultural/employment stigma. Over the years I’ve worked with many on the inside and found their self-perception generally accepted their lives and futures to be fated by loss and failure… where mirror’s reflection is empty of Hope.

Close to 20 years ago I got involved with a company which produced professional development courseware and programs. Though designed for the executive, I knew this was a stepping stone to bridge my path alongside those who have been misplaced along their way.

In 2003 I began the groundwork for 2nd Chance University but timing (and money) prevented progress. Leaping to 2012, Christian HELP and the Central Florida Jobs Initiative provided a medium to perfect my program and provide an evidence-based system.

Numbers were more than impressive but something was lacking. Upon pushing, was informed these two organizations disqualified those with a justice-involved background from the program I developed.

Months later, we parted ways. At that time, necessity dictated an

E to the 3rd

onward throttle to customize a program for those needing support, guidance, and tools to gain Commitment, Hope, and Empowerment.

Will continue on what happened next shortly. Until then, be kind, be the key,

Danny

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America: Land of the (In)visible

Writing provided by Duck who spent 13 years incarcerated; now finding a home as contributor and facilitator/trainer with 2nd Chance University, a non-profit dedicated to those who have stumbled.

For those who have been (or are currently) justice-involved, being invisible occupies a rather peculiar stance with even more atypical consequence.

For those not justice-involved, imagine a world where eye contact is not allowed, no soul searching or glimpsing into the spirit of the silenced number striding side by side.

Living behind bars means no identity other than 6 or 7 digits surrounding his or her every move. Think ab out how your sense of identity would be without a name and with an objectified history defining your Looking Glass Self theory.

For those without a justice-involved scratch or dent, take a look in the mirror, strip the reflective image of who/what you think you see, and then wipe away all of you with a single stretch. From this day forward, in place of what you thought you saw moments ago, resides a blemished blur.

In accordance to being invisible, for the next 24 hours, there can be no eye contact, there can be no talk without directly being told you have permission to speak, there can be no mobility beyond set geographic boundaries, there can be no choice, no smiles (this will be seen as a sign of weakness), there can be no friends, no companionship, no nothing (sorry for the poor grammar).

Imagine, for these 24 hours, when people looked at you, they saw something less than human, something not worthy of respect, something not deserving of consideration, empathy, or a second chance. Imagine how these emotions and actions will toy with your mind and sense of self-worth not just for the moment, but for your lifetime (and your families).

Imagine that even after this 24-hour experience, time kept on and you were forever defined as less than human.

Truth is, for those who are justice-involved, rightly or wrongly, he or she will never wash their skin of past sins, society won’t let them, lenders won’t let them, employers won’t let them, and, in most cases, YOU won’t let them.

What does it mean to be invisible? There’s no such concept as no matter who you are, others see and define based upon pre-conceived misconceptions supporting personal agendas and deficiencies.

Is America the land of hope, of understanding, of second chances? Do I really need to answer that? Perhaps now is the time for America to be.

2nd Chance University is a non-profit designed for our youth as well as our adult population who have stumbled to regain their Commitment, Hope, and Empowerment.

I welcome your stories to be added into our series. If you chose to share or support, email me directly at dhuffman@2ndChanceUniversity.org.

Danny Huffman
Founder, Journeyman
321-972-8919

Trauma Informed Care, Yesterday to Today

Being a non-profit working with young and old adults involved within the criminal justice system, we hear the term Trauma Informed Care more often than not. As a matter of fact, the term, especially when dealing with alternatives to incarceration, our criminal justice system, and effective reintegration, is in the limelight right now. According to those in the know:

Trauma Informed Care is an organizational structure and treatment framework that involves understanding, recognizing, and responding to the effects of all types of trauma.

I remember growing up and how the word trauma was tagged (exclusively) to a military setting. No doubt, heading off to war can (and often will) directly affect the individual; of that there is little dispute. Way back when, it was rare that anyone not directly involved with the military was recognized as shouldering post-traumatic stress.

Unfortunately, family members left behind were often forgotten about or brushed to the side when it came to trauma… out of sight… their voice was rarely heard.

Jumping from childhood to well into adulthood, the consequence of trauma has been expanded to those outside of the military to include individuals indirectly involved in the incident or event. With such an expansion recognized, recovery is being addressed in a more effective manner… no more out of sight… their voice will be heard.

By today’s standards, traumatic experiences requiring care ranges from the obvious to the not-so-obvious. When it comes to our vulnerable youth and the effects of trauma, the world, neighborhood, and home can create an ever-lasting impression on the heart, mind, and soul; without proper care, these youth are at risk.

Beneath the trauma inducing umbrella are events such as:

Natural disaster
Death of a loved one
Being in a car accident
Child witnessing home abuse
Family member going to prison
Loud noises, gun shots being heard
Shootings and/or neighborhood fighting
Child being the victim of abuse, physical and/or emotional

The above is not all-inclusive but should give you an idea as to what we are dealing with.

On a personal level, the following happened years ago, which, if handled incorrectly, could have changed the path of two very young boys:

When my two boys were just three and four years of age, I purchased two living ducklings as an Easter present (before you panic, we lived on a farm so this was normal activity). My boys were in total awe at the new addition and insisted the ducks stayed in the house. I allowed.

On the second night, the new addition remained inside and in a cardboard box like the night before. After much quacking and smelling of duck poop, around 4:00 am, I placed the cardboard box outside, just within reach of the door. Unfortunately the night was a bit too cold and the ducks did not make it.

My boys woke to the sound of silence as they stepped out to an unexpected event. They both were very upset, shed tears, and did not understand what had happened. That morning, I sat the boys down and explained in a calm and empathetic way what had happened. Over the next few days we had gentle and sensitive talks about it and before long, all was fine.

Though insignificant in comparison, if handled without care and empathy, the event could have made a rippling psychological scar of one or both of my boys.

If a traumatic event happens to someone in your life, do know there are general things one can do to minimize lifelong effects. In my situation outlined above, I remained patient and understanding, allowing deep and meaningful discussions (even though the boys were very young, they deserved respect, a voice, warmth, and empathy).

Simply being there is the first step, as for second and third steps, we’ll review what the experts in the field suggest in articles to come.

To help all of us progress, I welcome your stories to be added into our series.

If you chose to share, email me directly at dhuffman@2ndChanceUniversity.org.

Danny Huffman,
Founder and Journeyman
2nd Chance University

Steven’s Doubled CHE Quotient

Last time we stopped abruptly in the middle of Steven’s story, time to check out how his CHE Quotient — not too worry, for those not in the CHE Quotient know, you will soon.

Looking at the numbers, Steven had no chance…but you can’t always bet on the numbers

What Steven had to learn was that he was a unique person with value. That he deserved a better future. That he could actively choose a different path than the one he had walked since his youth.

His lesson started there: by restoring hope, developing empowerment, and bolstering the commitment necessary to change one’s life. Recognizing his own potential and aware that failure (a return to prison) wasn’t an option, Steven committed himself to embracing these lessons and became one of our human element successes.

For Steven, 1 + 1 = SUCCESS!

I had felonies in my background and I couldn’t get a job. You helped me overcome them in my interviews and become a man of integrity. Now I have a job! Thank you!”

Steven isn’t a number or a statistic, he’s a person. He’s a person who won’t be an inmate ever again. He’s a person able to find employment despite his past. He’s a person with the hope and skills to make his bright future real.

Speaking of numbers, his CHE Quotient doubled to 3.8, and that’s a number one can be proud of.

For the politicians and haters, statistics and numbers have their uses, but they don’t provide the whole picture. That’s why we measure numbers by lives changed: nothing else matters.

I invite you to join in—send your human element short story for publication consideration. Together, we will build a force and make a difference.

2nd Chance University is a non-profit dedicated to the socially invisible, those justice-involved seeking a journey of wonder and amazement.

1 + 1, what does it add up for you?

Richard Milaschewski
2ndChanceUniversity.org