Ready4Work, partners share in ‘family fellowship experience’
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
Tallahassee’s Ready4Work recently put on a show of what partnerships could do in the parking lot in front of the building where several ex-offenders have taken their first step to making a re-entry to society.
Billed a “family fellowship experience,” the event featured many of the partners who provide services used by Ready4Work’s clients. The list of resources included educational programs, job preparation and even programs that help incarcerated parents restore a bond with their children while imprisoned.
Visitors who came with children had entertainment by a disc jockey and a bounce house for the children. Face painting also was popular with adults and children.
But the big ticket was the agencies like Career Source, which provides job opportunities. Jobs have been the core of Ready 4Work’s mission since it opened in Tallahassee a little more than a year ago.
“Having a job reduces the likelihood that (someone) will re-enter prison and that’s the hope we are offering our clients,” said Lucritia Collins, director of the Ready4Work program. “If they stick with us through the four-to-six week period while we work with them to transition from incarceration to the workforce, then we can provide an opportunity for gaining employment.”
In addition to jobs, Ready4Work clients are given mental health and substance abuse services, skills and vocational training, GED preparation and training, clothes for job interviews, job placement assistance and bus passes.
Clients also are coached as part of their job preparation. Partners who provide many of those services were part of the weekend event.
In addition to the jobs partners, some of the services on display were a big surprise to visitors. Take for example the FAMU Trio program, which provides an avenue for anyone wanting to go to college for the first time, get a GED or take a certificate course.
Trio is an ideal fit for people with disability, veterans and first-generation college students whose parents don’t have a bachelor’s degree, said Tray Williams, regional coordinator of the Trio program.
While the program isn’t free, some applicants are eligible for funding and those who prepare and take GED exams get to do so at no cost on their first try, he said. He added that representatives of the Trio program also work with Ready4Work clients biweekly.
Although the turnout for the event wasn’t exceptionally large, Williams said it served its purpose in bringing awareness to what’s available for people wanting to earn a college degree.
“Having events like this assists us in getting the word out that we are here to help everyone in achieving their educational goals,” he said, adding that the program could be especially helpful to high school dropouts and veterans.
“They just need people to assistant with giving them the knowledge about returning to the classroom,” Williams said. “A lot of veterans don’t realize that if they joined the service post 911 that they have an access to education for free for unlimited years.”
High school dropouts also are the primary target of Tallahassee Engaged or Tempo, a government program that helps young people aged 16 to 24 complete their education of find jobs.
“When you look at the inmate data or incarceration in our state and federal prisons, most of them are high school dropouts,” said Kimball Thomas, director of the program. “We are trying to reduce crime by not having them re-arrested, not having a violation of parole or not getting arrested.”
One hundred and five people have been able to find work through Career Sources since Tallahassee Engaged started, he said.
“There has been a wow reaction to it,” Thomas said. “People don’t know we have so many disconnect youths in our community.”