Video by Marc Bossi
Teacher Julie Eramo sees the potential in her students at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility (RJD), so much so that she organized an Employment Fair at the San Diego prison to give them interviewing experience.
Eramo, who teaches the Transitions reentry class at RJD’s Otay Mesa Adult School, coordinated local and statewide employers to participate in the fair. Students selected to attend are less than a year until release, or have a parole suitability hearing date coming up.
The week prior to the fair, RJD hosted educational workshops for the participating students. Representatives from the San Diego Workforce Center provided information about resume writing, interview skills, tax credits and bonding. A local business even donated neckties and those who did not know how were taught how to tie them, and were allowed to wear the ties during their interviews.
Numerous employers held interviews at the fair, all of whom will hire qualified people even if they have a felony conviction. More than 100 students were interviewed for jobs, giving them practice in learning how to dress professionally and speak formally. For many, the Career Fair was their first experience interviewing for a job.
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Julie Eramo: The Employment Fair idea started in working closely with the San Diego Workforce Partnership. Representatives from the San Diego Workforce Partnership began coming into the Transitions class to teach employment skills and we had discussed having an Employment Fair for currently incarcerated individuals to give them an opportunity to find employment before their release.
Dante Henderson: To show that there is hope for my future. Just because I’m sentenced to life doesn’t meant that I don’t have a future in life.
Shawn Khalifa: Because I’ve been incarcerated since I was 15 years old, I’ve never been to a job fair, never had employment in the community. I’ve only been employed in institutions, so I was excited to come here and check out what a job fair was all about and what employment opportunities were available.
Fernando Milsap: You know, they provided me with a lot of information that I think will be usual for me when I get out – before I get out, actually, to prepare me for the workforce.
Chris Johnson: I’ve been out 27 months. I’m a former inmate, I was incarcerated 28 years, Pelican Bay, Calipatria, Tehachapi, COR B, I come back to the prisons to speak to the fellow inmates, particularly the lifers, to give them hope, to give them encouragement.
Andrew Granger: This job fair today is unprecedented in that it is the first event of its type that I’ve seen in almost 39 years of incarceration.
Melvin Price Jr.: I’m here today trying to see if I’m employable, which I found out I am, and that’s a great thing.
Rob Smith: I think we’d hire just about everyone we interviewed. So as soon as they get out and walk into my door, they’ll have a job.
Riccardo Canova: With the amount of hope and just positive outlook that all of these guys had.
Shelle Kulik: In my experience, this is a wonderful population to deal with. I’ve been working with them demographic for about a year now, and we have been successful time after time with these associates that become employed by our company and work every day doing a great job. They show up on time, they’re worth it, and I’m just pleased to be here.