Windham Career Expo inside TDCJ's Terrell Unit brings employers, hiring support directly to offenders

"It was a great opportunity for me to have been a part of this career expo. I learned that being incarcerated doesn't mean my future has to stop there," said offender M. Garcia, a recent participant in a Terrell Unit Career Exposition hosted by Windham School District.

Offenders gathered to hear from a variety of employees and professionals speaking about industry jobs and work opportunities for post- release offenders. With more than 160 students in attendance at five one-hour long sessions, there were many men eager to hear what visitors had to say. Ten volunteers and community leaders from five different companies came into this Texas Department of Criminal Justice facility in Rosharon, Texas, to talk directly to students about employment opportunities. Some of the visitors were more familiar with incarceration than others.

Ten volunteers and community leaders from five different companies came into this Texas Department of Criminal Justice facility in Rosharon, Texas

"I'm currently in a management position for my company and I'm a convicted felon," B. Robinson told WSD students. "So, when people tell you that you can't do anything when you get out or that you're unable to change things – that's a lie," he said. Robinson now represents one of the largest industrial contractors in North America.

Robinson shared his straight-forward personal story with offenders to let them know there are opportunities to better themselves after incarceration and maintain employment. He said that his company hires former offenders who demonstrate strong training, hard work and real effort.

Another volunteer speaker, R. White, also described a past that offenders could relate to -- being incarcerated in his earlier years. He said he vividly remembers a specific day during his incarceration, when he felt his "boots hit the ground" and recognized he needed to make something of himself after release.

"If you want success, it's there. There's no one who can get in the way of it except for you," White said. "Work ethic, dependability and your ability to be an example to everybody around you are the main keys to success. You have to want it."

White now works for a welding company near Austin. He said he is proud of the work he is doing to provide for himself and his family. He also said living a clean life was made possible by determination discovered during incarceration.

Many presenters emphasized the effort that must go into gaining different job-ready skills during incarceration, and in turn, into making a positive change after release. Along with industrial employers, speakers included Texas Workforce Solution and the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole. Each speaker shared specific hiring and work preparation details about their businesses, organizations and services. Participating offenders voiced optimistic responses to the employment information.

Offender F. Hughen said hearing the advice from each volunteer "was the most inspirational experience yet within these walls."

Offender L. Allen said, "It's mind-blowing and inspirational to know you can have a better future after prison. The possibilities are endless. Thank you, Windham."

Enthusiasm for the event also came from WSD teachers at the Terrell Unit who were excited to see a change in their students' attitudes during the expo.

"It was a big relief for us to organize a career expo in a prison facility for offenders who usually spend a lot of time only hearing about difficulties with job placement," said Literacy and Cognitive Intervention teacher S. Falokun. "The expo was the best thing that ever happened to my students. I can now speak with greater confidence that there is hope for offenders after release."

"Career Expos are a way of enhancing Windham's commitment to build job ready employment skills through vocational certification, literacy skills and life skills," Terrell Unit Principal Charles Wood said. "Through established partnerships with employers, WSD students can secure gainful employment after release. We especially appreciate the support and assistance of Warden Michael Butcher and the C.T. Terrell TDCJ staff. They were instrumental in making the Career Expo successful."

Windham Career Expos are being sponsored throughout the state in partnership with the TDCJ and its Reentry and Integration Division. For more information about hosting or participating in a Career Expo, please contact WSD Workforce Specialist Charlene Moriarty at 936-291-5304 (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ). Career Expo dates include April 29 at the Ney State Jail in Hondo, May 26 at Dominguez State Jail in San Antonio and June 10 at the Torres Unit, also in Hondo.

Success Stories

Success Story IconPolunsky Unit Success Story -
"He [Mr. Leblanc] taught me things that even the guys rebuilding transmissions for many years didn't know."

Success Story IconNEW - Thank you for this program - "My son received his GED through Windham School District. I just wanted to thank you for this program."

Success Story IconNEW - I’m so grateful I took welding -
"I’m so grateful I took welding; I’ve come so far in my career because the things I was taught in that program".

Success Story IconTo a WSD welding teacher from a former offender student -
"I got a job welding and I had to write and just thank you so much for putting me ahead of the game."


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WSD in Images

An offender at the Polunsky Unit prepares for graduation after earning his GED through the Windham School District.
WSD’s Business and Image Management & Multimedia (BIMM) class offers students the opportunity to learn viable graphic arts and computer skills, helping them prepare for jobs after release.
Texas State Board of Education Chair Barbara Cargill congratulates GED recipients during Spring, 2014, ceremonies. “I am very impressed with the program and with the commitment of the staff and teachers,” she said.
Vocational and academic skills are integrated in Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs, such as this Small Engine Repair class in Huntsville, Texas.
Offenders often experience academic success for the first time in a Windham classroom.
Students at the Huntsville “Walls” Unit strengthen writing skills during a literacy class.