Women in Recovery participants don’t just recover from substance abuse. They also gain skills that will help them land jobs once they graduate.
That’s why Women in Recovery, operated by Family & Children’s Services in partnership with the George Kaiser Family Foundation, wouldn’t be complete without a job training partnership with Tulsa Community College.
Heather Langley, a WIR employment specialist who helps women find work, said the courses are about empowering women to be self-sufficient, an effort which also benefits their children and families.
“I think it’s important that everyone in their life gets a chance to find success and happiness,” Langley said. “Not everybody comes from a background that gives them equal footing in accessing that opportunity. This is the case for the majority of our women in the program.”
The partnership, dubbed Second Chance, provides certificates in business computing and hospitality to participants at Women in Recovery.
The classes help participants get jobs, and the classes make it less likely they’ll re-offend later, Langley said.
“Employment equates empowerment and self-sufficiency,” Langley said. “I think the greatest gift we can give our children is showing them you can be passionate about your work, you can find a job that not only emotionally fulfills you but is able to meet your basic needs.”
The courses are delivered face-to-face based on a mentorship philosophy. The hospitality certificate features up-to-the-minute materials in customer service, quality control, event planning, leadership, labor and food costs, while the business computing skills certificate offers the most current training in Microsoft Office 2013 programs and others.
Jeff Horvath, TCC Corrections Education Coordinator and Assistant Professor of Business, said the classes make a difference. Employers have told him graduates of the class are better prepared than some of their own employees.
“Their employers tell us, ‘Some of your students who go through your Second Chance program have state-of-the-art skills. We’ve got to offer some of these classes to our organizations,’” Horvath said.
Horvath, an entrepreneur who teaches some of the courses, also brings in guest speakers from industry. About 50 women have participated in the program. Each semester ends in a graduation ceremony attended by students’ families and friends – a huge milestone in the students’ lives when just a few years before they were headed to prison or worse.
Horvath said TCC officials believe Second Chance serves a need in a state that leads the nation in incarceration rates among women. Less than 5 percent of the TCC program’s participants return to prison – light years ahead of the over 20 percent rate for those who don’t participate.
“First of all, as we provide these skills for them to get a job, then hopefully we’ll break that cycle of them getting re-incarcerated,” Horvath said. “Secondly, we know this affects generations … We’re very passionate about how we break that generational cycle. If the women go through our program and then get a job, they chart a different path with their life. Then, all of a sudden, that’s going to affect their kids and positively impact our community as they become contributing members of society.”
The program is free for students. It’s supported through the Second Chance Scholarships Fund, comprised of donations from people, businesses and foundations.
“Our vision for our partnership with Family & Children’s Services is to change Oklahoma from being the biggest incarcerator of women to being a role model for the nation,” Horvath said. “This is just one part of the effort, but it’s an important one.”
Social and traditional media producer
Family & Children’s Services