Pictured above: Charles Jackson (right) with Goodwill Career Advisor
Aundre Williamson-Gary

After his release from serving 25 years in prison, Charles Jackson found that everyday technology had changed drastically, and he had to learn from scratch. Everything from cellphones to internet job searches was foreign to him.

While serving his sentence, Jackson had taken many certification and accreditation programs including pipe fitting, fabrication with steel, welding, brick masonry and HVAC, hoping to better his opportunities upon release. However, Jackson was overwhelmed with the “modern world” when returning to society and felt that employers would not be willing to take a chance on him.

After his release, Jackson spent more than five months unemployed, interviewing and day laboring, and was turned down after interviews due to his record. While searching through fliers for job opportunities, Jackson found Goodwill’s Community Employment Centers.

In Goodwill, Jackson discovered a supportive resource to help him rebuild his life and his confidence. Jackson took Goodwill’s Resumes, Interviews, Social Skills and Empowerment program (RISE) and a digital literacy class. These helped him learn to navigate technology, develop his resume, effectively communicate his background to potential employers and overcome his barriers to sustainable employment.

Jackson worked extensively with Karen Brown, a Goodwill career adviser, who helped direct him to employers who worked with a variety of backgrounds that would be open to giving Jackson a chance.

“Mr. Jackson is the epitome of determination,” said Brown. “He did not let his situation and previous poor decision define him – he was determined to define himself and what his future would look like. He knew he was a good person and would be a great employee, he just needed help to get there.”

Goodwill job developer Kevin Alston helped secure several interviews for Jackson. Jackson is now gainfully employed with the city of Hampton and is using technical skills he learned in prison. He hopes to expand his skills and career prospects and sees Goodwill as a vital steppingstone on the path to his future.

“Goodwill is the best asset that I’ve had since I was released. I would definitely recommend them to anyone looking for work,” said Jackson.

Keen to give back to the community, Jackson was a guest speaker at a recent “Good Path” graduation ceremony, a Goodwill program designed to equip employment-age youth who were incarcerated with job readiness skills and job opportunities. Jackson shared his moving testimony.

Karen Brown and Charles Jackson
Karen Brown and Charles Jackson

Jackson said he was happy to share his life story with the young program participants. Not one to believe in “scared straight,” Jackson shared the truth of his experience being incarcerated, including the financial depression, such as incarceration fees and other penalties, that can impact your family and future.

“You’re never going to reach everyone, but if somebody in that class of kids was listening and turned their life around, then I was successful in what I was trying to do. That’s the way I look at it,” said Jackson.

Goodwill’s career readiness team members are proud to have played a part in Jackson’s life-changing accomplishments and wish him every success in the future.