When the Economy Stalled, They Needed Laptops to Move Ahead

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With new expertise of their properties, New Yorkers get a lifeline to pursuing their goals.

The primary time William McCollum was launched from jail, his mom pleaded with him to cease promoting medication.

However Mr. McCollum, who had had earlier run-ins with the police, made no such guarantees. “Nobody’s going to help me,” Mr. McCollum recalled considering these many years in the past. “I screwed my life up so now I have to do what I have to do.”

On July 20, 2000, Mr. McCollum was arrested once more in South Carolina and charged with a Class A felony: possession with intent to promote and distribute crack cocaine. The crime carried a 30-year jail sentence.

Early into his incarceration, after being transferred to Otisville Correctional Facility, Mr. McCollum encountered a drug kingpin whom he had idolized. He made an effusive introduction, solely to be admonished for glamorizing the life-style that had led to their confinement.

Shaken, Mr. McCollum started attending a self-improvement program for inmates.

“It changed my whole mind-set,” Mr. McCollum, 55, stated in a current interview. “It helped me realize all my mistakes and accept my own faults.”

Earlier than lengthy, he was facilitating a number of packages that coated topics together with anger administration, parenting and public talking.

After his 2002 conviction, Mr. McCollum spent 17 years, 6 months and 13 days in jail. When he was launched in the summertime of 2019, he didn’t wish to squander his freedom.

He knew his legal document could be a hindrance to discovering profitable work. “A person like me, who would love to work a decent job, will never have the chance because of my criminal history,” Mr. McCollum stated. “I can’t blame anybody but myself.”

However a profession serving to others appeared becoming after his experiences in jail, in addition to achievable, so in March, he signed as much as start coaching to turn into a substance abuse counselor.

On the identical time, he was dwelling along with his mom in Corona, Queens; planning to marry his fiancée, who had waited for him for 18 years; and ready for the coaching program to start. Then the Covid-19 lockdown struck New York. The abrupt halt in his progress was a nasty sting.

New York Metropolis’s economy has been hit hard by the pandemic, with the unemployment fee round 20 %. Mr. McCollum, who receives $165 in Supplemental Vitamin Help Program advantages, had achieved odd jobs to get by.

Along with his dream of turning into a counselor paused, Mr. McCollum turned to his parole officer for assist discovering work, which introduced him to the Hope Program, an affiliate of Neighborhood Service Society. The society is a beneficiary company of The New York Instances Neediest Cases Fund.

The Hope Program gives job coaching to adults in marginalized and underserved communities, together with these with legal backgrounds. When the lockdown started, this system switched to a distant curriculum and lent laptops to members so they may proceed programs and hook up with on-line job boards, stated Linda Nguyen, director of digital literacy.

As Mr. McCollum’s job search continued, the society used $358 in Neediest Circumstances funds to purchase a laptop computer for him, releasing up a loaner for one more Hope Program consumer.

Mr. McCollum stated that he just lately began transferring to re-enroll in counselor coaching, whereas additionally pursuing extra secure paying work.

“I keep striving and trying to do the right thing,” he stated. “But doors got to be open, chances got to be given.”

One other beneficiary company of The Fund, Brooklyn Neighborhood Companies, has additionally been utilizing Neediest Circumstances Fund cash this 12 months to assist individuals whose lack of entry to expertise stalled job hunts.

Nia Davis, 18, was trying ahead to graduating from highschool and beginning to work in 2020, after spending the majority of her teenage years within the metropolis shelter system along with her household. She had shuffled by means of excessive faculties, the place she stated she confronted bullying from friends and apathy from academics.

Final 12 months, after enrolling on the Brooklyn High School for Leadership and Community Service, a switch college for college kids struggling in conventional faculties that’s operated by Brooklyn Neighborhood Companies, Ms. Davis discovered the assist she wanted.

In April, shortly earlier than commencement, Ms. Davis’s mom died of a coronary heart assault. It was a painful emotional setback for Ms. Davis, who had battled emotional demons for years.

“I’m used to using anything bad to make me feel bad,” she stated. “But her death was a wake-up call. I realized what she’d been saying for years, to get it together because she’s not always going to be here.”

Not solely did Ms. Davis graduate in June, however she did so having accomplished an Occupational Security and Well being Administration coaching program. Whereas Ms. Davis appears for a job, she can also be counting on expertise to assist her transfer towards her long-term purpose: turning into an artwork therapist.

In that function, she needs to assist others study to disclose themselves. “I’m not a person who’s good with expressing feelings,” Ms. Davis stated. “I feel like art is a really good way to do that.”

She obtained assist from Brooklyn Neighborhood Companies, which used $1,242 in Neediest Circumstances funds to purchase her an Apple laptop computer, software program and digital-art classes. Ms. Davis goals to start out faculty subsequent spring.

“I don’t know what kind of job this young woman will get, but I hope it’s one where she is able to help others in the same way that she has been helped,” stated Janelle Farris, govt director and president of Brooklyn Neighborhood Companies.

Ms. Davis, who lives along with her brother in backed housing in Brownsville, is hopeful about her job prospects, particularly as New York Metropolis continues loosening restrictions put in place throughout the pandemic.

“If this year hadn’t existed, I wouldn’t have known my full ability,” Ms. Davis stated. “I wouldn’t have known what I was capable of.”

Donations to The Neediest Circumstances Fund could also be made online or with a check.

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