A Path Measured in Miles

May 14, 2020

I have struggled with addiction for over half of my life. Five years ago, I started on a very dark path that ended with a 3-year prison sentence. I felt hopeless, guilty, and I had so much shame that I almost wanted to just throw in the towel and be done with life altogether.

I entered into my incarceration with a very negative attitude. I didn’t think there was any chance of me succeeding after prison and I knew that reentry into the community can be the most challenging time for a formerly incarcerated individual. Felonies, reputations, and adjusting to your release often leads individuals right back down the path that led to the choices they were making before they got locked up. I quickly realized that was not the path I wanted to go back down. I chose to seize the opportunity for change that was given to me, to turn the most negative situation I had been in into a positive one.

About five months into my sentence, Topeka Correctional Facility announced they were going to start a new program at the facility I was in. The posters for the program had words on them like “entrepreneur”, “success”, “career”, and “future”. Those words were enough for me to apply for the program. I was one of the first 13 females in Kansas to participate in The Last Mile program. I had no clue what computer coding was or how the internet and webpages worked. I knew how to use a website but I had no idea the complexity of how these magical pages and applications appeared.

The Last Mile (“TLM”) was a full-time learning experience. It was an intense 16-month coding Bootcamp offered to prisoners, but without access to the internet. We were exposed to many platforms and languages for programming, including front-end and back-end development. This was the most challenging thing I have ever done. I was so frustrated sometimes but I stuck with it, believed in the process, and graduated the program. This program not only gave me hope for something better in my future, but the motivation and confidence to be successful. After struggling with addiction and having no sense of purpose or direction before my incarceration, hope and confidence were just what I needed to be sure that I could come out of prison a new me.

In addition to teaching me how to code, TLM strengthened my ability to be assertive and curious. Most of all, it made me realize that even though I once suffered from an addiction, I am still a person with aspirations and that I can achieve my goals as long as I try. Through TLM’s program, I began to value myself as a woman, a professional, and a recovering addict.

I have been out of prison for almost a month now and I am so proud to say that the hard work and dedication is actually paying off for me. I am currently participating in Launchcode’s JavaScript Bootcamp. A woman who works at Launchcode and had volunteered in the facility I was at informed me that she knew of a legal tech company that valued people with similar backgrounds to mine with a great mission and were doing amazing things for the legal tech community. I emailed A2J Tech Store and was soon hired on their team as a full-time developer. A2J was the perfect fit for me. This extremely talented group of individuals has been the most open and supportive co-workers that anyone could ask for. They are involved with so many great organizations, they value second-chance hiring, and they develop really amazing services, that an everyday person actually needs. I am currently working on a document automation project using Documate. I’m getting a chance to utilize all of the skills I gained from The Last Mile and I am learning every single day.

I told A2J that this has been a life-changing opportunity. My transition from inmate/convict into developer/mother has been smooth, I am setting goals and meeting them, making a 5-year plan, reintegrating with my family, and this has been extremely empowering for me. I would like to thank TLM for lighting that spark inside me that had gone out before my incarceration and A2J for helping me to keep that flame lit. I am forever grateful.

For the women that are currently walking that same dark path, or are heading down that path now, remember:

"Sometimes the bad things that happen in our lives put us directly on the path that leads to the best things that will ever happen to us.”

Hope is so powerful and there is a different path- you just have to want it!

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