Returning Strong: Darrius comes full circle by joining CEO staff that first inspired him

Mar 08, 2023   |  By Emily Montgomery

Today, Darrius is an eloquent and reflective leader who pours his heart into the work of helping individuals returning home from incarceration. But it wasn’t long ago Darrius was on the other side, unsure what his life would look like after prison.

“Many people were wondering what type of life I’d make for myself,” he says, and he was one of them.

Darrius was released from incarceration in 2021 after serving for two decades. In the short time since he left prison, he’s gone from being a participant with the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), to a member of their Emerging Leaders Program, to now holding a full-time job as operations coordinator for their Colorado Springs office.

Darrius first learned about CEO when an organization representative named Maurice Motley presented at a job fair at the facility where Darrius was incarcerated. He was struck by the organization and in October of 2021, soon after his release, he signed up to be a participant with CEO.

Darrius didn’t have transportation from the halfway house where he was living to the CEO office, so Maurice designed a pickup route and gave Darrius a bike so he could get to his pickup spot. But—it was a five mile journey there.

“After two decades incarcerated, being placed on the side of the highway on a girl's bike was rattling, to say the least,” Darrius says. “But I was struggling to get to the pickup site otherwise. And once I saw the participants and the site supervisors, it was an alleviation of the struggle.”

His determination did not go unnoticed. Last summer, CEO staff selected Darrius to be part of their Emerging Leaders Program (ELP). The ELP is a paid leadership development internship for CEO participants interested in advancing their careers by working in areas like I.T. Advocacy, Human Resources, and Executive Support. ELP members have the opportunity to build professional skills through their work on a CEO team and with a staff mentor.

Darrius says that this program gave him the space to work through insecurities, build connections, and collaborate with teammates. He adds that one of the most valuable benefits of being part of the ELP was gaining confidence and self-esteem.

“Working in an atmosphere of talented people has a contagious effect,” he said.

Then in the fall of 2022, he had the opportunity to apply for a full-time role with CEO and was hired as an operations coordinator.

“It has been a great introduction for me into a culture of cooperation,” Darrius says. “Working across so many branches of CEO has brought me into direct contact with the very gifted and talented resources that we have in our people.”

Darrius added that there are a lot of opportunities for professional growth in his position. “This role offers me development tracks that are really exciting.”

And Darrius intends to take advantage of all of these opportunities.

“My future feels so bright,” he says, “I have so many goals—it’s like a hand above the surface of a pond full of minnows. That's how I feel about reaching and trying to find a specific goal, because there's just so many in there. They're constantly moving as I become more aware of the limitless world that is post-prison.”

One of the most meaningful moments of his job came last fall when he had the opportunity to represent CEO at a job fair at the facility where he was incarcerated. It was the same situation where he first learned about CEO, and he was able to go back and share his experience with others.

“It was a crowning moment,” he said.