Career Expo business presentation empowers former offender to succeed

When former offender Peter Delfs returned to prison to give a presentation at a Career Expo at Dominguez State Jail, he experienced a rewarding role reversal. Released from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) in early 2015, Delfs was in the offender audience at Dominguez State Jail when the 2014 Career Expo was held. Then he returned as a guest speaker.

Thanks! Former Windham student Peter Delfs thanks Career Expo speaker Robyn Cartmill for sharing her story of overcoming obstacles after release. Only a few months earlier, Delfs was in the audience, inspired by Cartmill's presentation.

Thanks! Former Windham student Peter Delfs thanks Career Expo speaker Robyn Cartmill for sharing her story of overcoming obstacles after release. Only a few months earlier, Delfs was in the audience, inspired by Cartmill's presentation.

"I just can't believe that I was here eight months ago," Delfs said. "Now I am here giving my own career presentation to offenders. It's pretty awesome!"

Delfs was still a student in a Windham School District (WSD) computer maintenance class in 2014 when he discovered the Career Expo was coming to Dominguez State Jail.

"Me and a few buddies decided to go see what the Expo was all about. We put on our 'tight-whites' and headed for the presentation," he said.

Sitting in the crowd, Delfs listened intently to each of the speakers, but when Robyn Cartmill shared her story, the words struck a familiar chord. Cartmill struggled with drug addiction as a teenager and young adult, and she was sentenced to prison for a short term. Her presentation testified to the power of constructive thinking, and her words had a powerful effect on her listeners. After overcoming tremendous obstacles, Cartmill is now the owner and developer of a restaurant franchise in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and CEO of a family business.

"What makes Robyn Cartmill's story so empowering is that it resonates with offenders," Delfs said. "She went down the same path that most of us in prison have traveled. The significant factor is that she actually changed her entire thinking and behavior, which ultimately led to success."

Delfs has also made success after incarceration his reality. He is employed as a supervisor for ArrowSign Advertising, which provides advertising for a number of different companies in the San Antonio area. ArrowSign provides live "sign spinners" to stand in front of businesses and attract attention. Delfs took his work as a spinner seriously, and with some effort, soon became a supervisor of others.

Starting over: Peter Delfs (left) and a coworker share post-release and employment information with offenders at Dominguez State Jail.

Starting over: Peter Delfs (left) and a coworker share post-release and employment information with offenders at Dominguez State Jail.

"Success is about having a positive outlook," he says. "You have to ask yourself: what can you turn your future into? What types of choices can redefine your life? What can change your way of thinking or behavior?"

When Delfs was able to introduce himself to Cartmill at the 2015 Dominguez State Jail Career expo, he said he was in the same audience a year prior and found her presentation on that day to be impactful and life changing. She was pleased to meet Delfs and learn the role she played in inspiring success.

She emphasizes the power of changes: "Change your thoughts and you will change your words. Change your words and you will change your actions. Change your actions and you will change your results. Change your results and you will change the world," Cartmill said.

One purpose of the Career Expo is for presenters to share with offenders the empowering ideas of determination and ambition that can help them gain employment upon release. Guest speakers and their companies are often willing to help offenders make the transition to the free world by providing them with training and resources.

"If I didn't attend the Expo, then I would have never heard Cartmill's presentation. Without her influence, I could not have gone on to make better decisions in my life, and I may not have changed my thinking or behavior," Delfs said. "We think, we move, we choose, we change: it's as simple as that. It all starts with us when we finally change the way we think."

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WSD in Images

Female offenders in Gatesville, Texas, study to improve their literacy skills during a WSD academic class.
Students at the Huntsville “Walls” Unit strengthen writing skills during a literacy class.
Offenders often experience academic success for the first time in a Windham classroom.
Vocational and academic skills are integrated in Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs, such as this Small Engine Repair class in Huntsville, Texas.
An offender at the Polunsky Unit prepares for graduation after earning his GED through the Windham School District.
Each day WSD correctional educators pass through prison gates across Texas to work with men and women incarcerated within TDCJ.