The REEMERGE Reentry Program honored successful participants during a recently held recognition ceremony. The participants were acknowledged for their achievements in entrepreneurship, training, and employment.
Keynote speaker and Richland County councilman, Overture Walker, encouraged participants to believe in their vision regardless of how it appears to others. Walker drew a parallel between their journey and the biblical account of Joshua and Caleb in possessing the land of Canaan.
“They did not conquer the land of milk and honey overnight,” he stated. “But through persistence and faith, the land would eventually belong to them and their descendants. Learning to have a can-do attitude is an essential part of conquering fear and living a successful life.”
“Most of society does not expect you to re-emerge and become contributing members of the community. Being labeled a convicted felon strips you of your humanity and opens the door for policies designed to make life so much harder, even after you have served your time. Today, we proudly celebrate all your achievements, hard work, and dedication,” Walker added.
Second chance employer, Cliff Wilson of The Centric Group has hired several REEMERGE clients and often raves about his experience with the program.
“I’m an advocate for these guys. They work hard and have families to feed just as we all do. Anyone who is motivated to change deserves the chance to do so.” Cliff Wilson currently employs clients from the REEMERGE program. “A few of my best employees were hired through REEMERGE. I encourage other business owners to explore this untapped opportunity.”
The program participants are examples of life beyond incarceration. C. Wilkerson, an active REEMERGE client, wants those soon to be released to prepare now.
“You have to prepare for your next steps, or you will never reach them. Have a realistic plan for your life and surround yourself with those who support you.”
Wilkerson served 22 years in prison and was released in 2020. The Reemerge program assisted Mr. Wilkerson with completing his CDL training, and he recently formed an LLC to launch a cleaning solutions enterprise.
The REEMERGE program is funded by the US Department of Commerce, Minority Business Development Agency and operated by Columbia-based DESA, Inc. Diane Sumpter, president of DESA, Inc., understands that without adequate job skills, training, coaching and employment options, returning citizens face an alarming prospect of being reincarcerated.
“It’s important to build a substantial pool of community resources to support the formerly incarcerated. Experiencing that sense of connectedness is a tremendous source of encouragement for them to succeed,” said Sumpter.
During its 6-12-month reentry program, REEMERGE offers access to sought-after skillsets, job training, and business ownership training to better position their clients to compete in the workforce or the local economy. However, the impact of this unique program extends far beyond employment. It helps to rebuild a sense of dignity and pride in those now able to support themselves and provide for their families.
Photo: Ron Smith, Reemerge Client Manager and Tiana Scarlett, Reemerge Communications Specialist