Jonathan #SuccessBells

July 1, 2017

“Great job, everyone!” Jonathan’s voice can be heard above the clatter of pots and pans, hissing steam, and clinking dishes as he and his coworkers feverishly prep and plate food orders. He is known for his infectiously positive attitude and passion for doing his very best. His job as a cook at Blue Plate Taco means everything to him.

Jonathan grew up with little supervision in a rough neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley. Early on, he established himself as a troublemaker, often following the example of the older neighborhood boys. His first trip to Juvenile Hall at 14 years old marked the beginning of 20 years of intermittent jail and prison sentences, gang involvement, substance abuse, and homelessness.

In 2009 while out on parole, Jonathan had hope for a better future. He had just completed his certification to become a Medical Assistant, and he was performing at the top of his class. Recognized as “most improved student” with a perfect attendance record, Jonathan wasn’t surprised when he was chosen as the top candidate for an internship. The last step before getting hired? A background check. After the truth about his past was uncovered, Jonathan was turned down for the position.

The disappointment of rejection left Jonathan in a downward spiral. He turned back to gang life and disappeared into a meth addiction. He tattooed his arms and face. He thought, “If I can’t get a job with a degree, what’s the point?” For the next 8 years, Jonathan was in and out of prison, living on the streets when he wasn’t behind bars.

But this time, upon his most recent release, Jonathan’s parole officer referred him to Chrysalis. He knew he needed to get a job, but he was sure that no one would hire him once they learned about his past. Despite what life had shown him over and over again, Jonathan was ready to be proven wrong – he believed that something was going to be different for him.

For the first time in a long time, Jonathan had hope again. He dove into our job prep classes with enthusiasm. In our Convictions and the Job Search class, he learned to answer questions about his past truthfully while highlighting his skills – he started to feel more confident. “I felt normal. Chrysalis really wanted to help, and I didn’t get discouraged because I felt accepted at Chrysalis. I would look around at the other people in the classes and think ‘Alright, I can do this. I’m not alone in this.’”

After being referred to a dishwashing position that was open at Blue Plate Taco, Jonathan arrived to the interview prepared with an answer for every question that might come his way. He was so focused on remembering what he had learned at Chrysalis that he was caught off guard when he was offered the job on the spot! Jonathan’s new employer took note of his work ethic, teamwork skills, and outgoing personality. Within a week, he was offered a promotion to Line Prep Cook!

Jonathan relies on public transit to commute to work, but he doesn’t mind the 45 minutes each way. He uses the time to reflect on how far he’s come, network with other commuters, and get pumped up for a great shift at work. In the months ahead, he looks forward to saving for a car and getting a place of his own. He is also able to provide for his eldest daughter with whom he has reconnected. But for Jonathan, it’s about more than a paycheck. It’s about having a future that isn’t defined by his past. “I value my job. They treat me like they need me. Getting up and going to work, that’s my payday.” 

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