22-year-old Jose Mendiola reached a point where he knew he had to change his life. He had been released from jail and his two kids, a four-year-old daughter and a six-year-old son, looked to him for guidance and support. To help Jose start on a new path, his probation officer connected him with our partners at South Bay Community Services (SBCS), a local nonprofit that provides supportive services for young adults impacted by the justice system. Working with SBCS, Jose obtained the financial and skill-building support he needed to land a higher-paying job in the career field he is passionate about. Below, Jose tells us about his journey through the justice system and what helped him down a new path.
I had been in and out of juvenile hall since I was 16 for minor crimes and misdemeanors like having drug paraphernalia. As I got older, I got into higher crimes and faced charges like assault and burglary. With age and the higher crimes, I was no longer sent to the juvenile hall, but instead to a County jail. I was repeatedly making the wrong decisions and I was not living a life that would make my family nor myself proud.
Back then, the thought of my family didn’t matter enough to keep me from trouble. I enjoyed the thrill of my lifestyle and it was a way to earn extra money. Even though I have found jobs easily and have been able to find companies willing to look past my record, the jobs were always low paying and I needed more money to care for myself and my two kids.
My last criminal charge changed my life forever. The judge told me that if I were to get in trouble, or even near trouble, one more time, I would spend the rest of my life in jail. That’s when I knew I had to do something different with my life.
When I was in and out of jail, I saw other people advancing in their careers and making more money, and every time I got arrested, I had to start all over again. I knew the only way to stay away from that lifestyle was to earn more money.
When I was released, forced to live in a sober house and put on probation, there was a lot that I was up against, but I did not let it dampen my spirit. I told my probation officer my goal was to make more money and get a better job than I was used to landing. He told me about SBCS and the program they offer to help people with their careers. When I looked the program over and saw what it offered, I thought, “Why not?”
When I started working with my program specialist Alyssa, I had never experienced anything like it. All the career training and interview and resume workshops I went through were new to me. But what really made a difference were the incentives they provided me. They offered to pay me for doing what, in my opinion, were things I was supposed to be doing, like getting a job and working to gain more skills.
Once I completed my training, my career navigator put me in touch with a construction company that was much larger and paid much more than the local ones that I was used to. Thanks to SBCS, I was not only able to land an interview, but was also equipped with the proper interviewing skills to get the job.
Going through this journey, what I learned and what I want other people going through similar situations to know is that there is going to be a point where you realize that you need to change. Hopefully, when that moment comes, you will be able to do something positive to change your life for the better and the sooner you realize that, the sooner you can start to make the changes needed.
Even though I am still on probation and living in a sober house today, I know that I am on the right path to achieving my goals and that is thanks to SBCS and the Workforce Partnership.