What inspired you to start this program?
The inspiration to start A Second U Foundation came from the struggle that I personally endured after completing a 10 year federal prison sentence. I found fitness while incarcerated, it was my therapy in so many ways. Inside is where I studied the wellness industry market and received my national certification. I was beyond excited to come home, put what I learned to use, become a personal trainer and build a career for myself while saving lives through something that had saved mine.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t my reality once released. My first seven to eight months home no corporate health club would hire me because of my past. I was hurt and frustrated but still hungry to build a career. Once I was given a chance, I spent my first four years home with not one day off. Myself and the team I built outworked every location and proved second chances are worth taking.
The reason Second U is here is I want to provide a road map, access to skills and a network for people coming home so they aren’t met with the same closed doors that I was, but opportunities. Second chances matter.
What motivates you most to keep it going?
Seeing doors closed on people who have made mistakes, have a past, but are trying to make a new life drives me. Even after proving our model through numbers, not one graduate reoffending, 94% being consistently employed in fitness since graduation, we still are met with resistance from corporate health clubs to hire formerly incarcerated people. Making sure people get open doors and second chances is what drives me.
How has your personal fitness played a role in where you are today?
Fitness was my vehicle to freedom, health and a stable career.
Recidivism. Can you explain what this means and why you think it occurs?
Recidivism is when people reoffend, and end up going back and forth to prison. The reason it happens is our society doesn’t focus on educational programs, or certifications that can provide a career that pays livable wages enough to build a new life for when people are released.
What sort of changes would you like to see in the current criminal justice system?
Mandatory minimums and sentencing is a huge issue. I went in as a nonviolent, first time offender and was given 120 months. The recently passed immediate release program is starting to release people, who shouldn’t have had the sentences they did to begin with, but those coming home are not provided with opportunities to work with livable wages.
The money and privatized prison industry people have created within the system is another problem because people making money off prisons, want people in prisons.
There is a lot of focus on policy, which has needed change, but there are 650,000 people coming home every year. Two thirds are rearrested and of those 80% are unemployed. People need skills, access and opportunity. It’s one reason I’m proud that at Second U we are doing the groundwork.
What does “health and wellness” mean to you?
Health and wellness to me is not only working on your physical and mental health, but also figuring out how to help your neighbor.
If you could offer one piece of advice for those who would like to lend a hand and get involved, what would it be?
My advice would be head over to our website: www.asecondufoundation.org and email us so we can put U to work!