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Jessie Terrell refuses to let her past define her.
In 2018, she was arrested for possession of methamphetamine and sentenced to three years at Rockville Correctional Facility in Rockville, Ind.
While incarcerated, the mom of four was determined to turn her life around, but worried about how she would support her family when she was released.
“There aren’t many opportunities for people who have been convicted of crimes,” Terrell said. “So many don’t want to give us a second chance.”
In August 2020, Terrell’s sentence was modified, and she was put on house arrest. Walking out of Rockville, she feared for the future—would she still have social skills? How would her community perceive her? And more importantly, who would hire her?
For guidance, she turned to her parole officer, who suggested she consider Lawrence County Workforce Coalition’s Introduction to Local Jobs and Skills (ILJAS) course—a three-week, philanthropy-funded workshop that equips participants with skills needed for careers in welding, machining and construction.
Ten days after her release, Terrell enrolled in the program.
ILJAS—which is supported by Indiana University Health’s Community Impact Investment Fund and Duke Energy, and in partnership with the North Lawrence Career Center—is open to all south-central Hoosiers looking for job placement, including those involved in the justice system.
“We strategically partner with our local community corrections leaders so they can help us recruit people released from prison into this program,” said Joe Timbrook, director of Career Development at the Lawrence County Economic Growth Council. “Our goal is to increase job skills of the unemployed and underemployed in southern Indiana, and justice-involved residents fall into this category. They need our support.”
And support is exactly what ILJAS provided Terrell.
In addition to mastering a new craft, the program connected her with prospective employers, prepared her for interviews, allowed her to make friends, and helped her regain her confidence.
“The encouragement that they gave and the hope that they instilled in me made me feel important,” Terrell said. “It made me believe that I can do good in this world again.”
Now, two years later, Terrell has landed a job as an auto parts worker at a Toyota manufacturing plant near her home in southern Indiana. She also recently celebrated a major milestone: four years of staying clean and sober.
“I would not be sitting here, living the life I am, without the ILJAS program,” she said.
To show her gratitude, Terrell gives back to ILJAS by sharing her story and serving as a mentor to participants – some who, like her, also spent time in prison.
“I want to be their inspiration, and for them to know that if I can do it, they can do it too," she said.
If you’d like to support workforce development initiatives in south-central Indiana, contact IU Health Foundation Senior Development Officer Emily Trinkle at 812.345.5625.