Melvina brings leadership and lived experience to support others during reentry

Dec 19, 2022   |  By Emily Montgomery

Melvina has always worked hard to achieve big things. Growing up, she was a competitive athlete, playing point guard in basketball as well as playing on her high school's soccer and track team. She has even passed this quality to her 8-year-old son, whose American Youth football team just won all three of their championship games in Georgia and are soon headed to Miami, FL, to play for nationals.

But it's not just sports–Melvina has also found success in her work-life post-incarceration. After a couple of months as a participant with the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) in Atlanta, she's now a member of CEO's Emerging Leaders Program. CEO is a national nonprofit that provides employment services to people returning home from prison or jail.

Melvina found out about the organization when a CEO employee came into the jail where she was incarcerated to do a presentation about the organization. She said that after being released, she was initially hesitant to join CEO but was glad when she did. She went through their orientation and became a participant, working on a litter abatement crew.

After only about two months, CEO staff brought Melvina onto the team as a crew coach. For that position, she has transported and led a crew at a construction site where a new Facebook building is being erected.

Now she's a member of CEO's Emerging Leaders Program (ELP), and on a couple of committees, including CEO's committee on SNAP benefits.

"I'm doing a lot right now, but it's great," Melvina said.

She has a lot of responsibilities as an ELP member, including establishing relationships with other community-based organizations, maintaining relationships with participants in the retention cohort, and helping manage participants and their schedules.

Melvina says she's grateful for the experience of being an ELP member.

"We're learning how to be leaders, but also other things like how to deal with our pasts and our daily lives."

She's considering returning to school in the future–perhaps to pursue a career in nursing. In the meantime, though, she's happy to be working at CEO.

"CEO has been great. The people that work with CEO just show so much support," she said. "To think that you don't have a support system, and then find one in CEO–you can never feel like you're alone with CEO."