Reading His Way Into Success: Joseph’s CEO Leadership Program Journey

Sep 25, 2023   |  By Emily Montegomery

Joseph is a big reader, completing dozens of books a year. He shares that his two favorites are The Winds of War and War and Remembrance by Herman Rouk, historical novels that tell a sweeping story of World War II, but he says he’ll read almost anything. This dedication to reading started while Joseph was incarcerated and has since transformed into a love of learning and developing new leadership skills that can help him give back.

Joseph, who grew up in West Virginia but now lives in Sacramento, CA, explained that while in prison, he worked during the day and read for at least four hours a night.

But the real turning point for Joseph, where he was able to apply this curiosity and love for learning, came when he was paroled in July 2022.

He joined the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) just a couple of weeks after being released. He worked hard on his transitional work crew, showing his site supervisor that he was a dedicated worker who wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty.

That hard work led to him being selected to join CEO’s Emerging Leaders Program (ELP), which he started this February. As part of the three-month program, participants learn communication, conflict resolution, and digital skills. They also meet regularly over Zoom with the other participants, something Joseph says helped him make good friends around the country.

“It was twelve of the best weeks of my life,” he says. “It was just a great experience.”

Joseph adds that one of the most valuable things he learned as part of the ELP was perspective.

“It showed me how good life can be,” he said. “You’re learning at a rapid pace. It’s great to be able to learn and to have people who have the patience in order to help you.”

Joseph says that being part of CEO and ELP was invaluable to him.

“The staff at CEO gave me a luxury I never thought I’d get,” he says. “To get back into society and in the workforce and to be geared for success. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for any of those people – participants or staff. They showed me nothing but love, understanding, and patience. I love them all.”

Now, Joseph is working toward a career where he can use those leadership and communication skills. His job search is currently focused on driving positions, but he’s interested in anything where he can utilize his talents to continue helping others.

Joseph adds, “Now I’m giving back, and I’m loving every minute of it.”