Experience, education, training with WSD inspire Stanley to share success with offenders
"I volunteer because the life I have today is beyond the wildest dreams I ever imagined possible," says Garrett Stanley, recipient of a 2016 Governor’s Criminal Justice Volunteer Service Award. "These dreams did not materialize from luck or good fortune; they happened because I gained a skill set that made me marketable in the workplace. Once in the workplace, I was able to be promoted in my field because of the foundation that was built in Windham."
Some years ago, former offender Stanley was a Windham School District student, enrolled in vocational training and preparing for a new life. Today he is a free man and WSD volunteer, inspiring current offenders to overcome their life challenges. Serving his 12 years in TDCJ helped Stanley gain an education through WSD and build a successful career as a licensed Journeyman electrician in the Austin area. He feels it is now his duty to give back.
"I attend Windham graduations and give testimony about the skills that I learned there and the opportunities that opened up for me post release from those classes," he says. "I also testify that because of those skills, I was tremendously changed in a way that reversed the direction of my life --completely."
From being a guest speaker at WSD graduations to taking Alcoholics Anonymous meetings into the prisons, Stanley uses every opportunity to share his story with current offenders, telling them, "my recovery started in prison; it is never too late to begin a new path."
Stanley emphasizes that the skills offenders gain through WSD will lead to safer communities. He says educated and skilled former offenders become more employable and learn to be stronger members of their communities.
"The [WSD] instructors are not just giving people a pep talk; they are giving students marketable skills that can give the student and his family a new opportunity in life," Stanley says. "I don't want people to give up, and I want everyone from the students to the instructors to know that what they are doing is good for this world.
I do not believe in disposable people," he says. "Every man and woman properly equipped with education, skills and a moral compass has a chance for success."
Stanley encourages others to consider volunteer work in TDCJ.
"I champion for volunteer work in the prison at any level," he says. "I encourage people that have had post release success to become volunteers so that students in TDCJ can see first-hand that this path works."