We all know that housing and employment are two of the biggest factors in determining recidivism. Both of which are extremely difficult to obtain with a felony conviction.
Breakthrough launched its Fair Opportunity Employer Program to educate and recruit more companies to hire people with felony convictions. One of our incredible employer partners is the Sage Hospitality Group, and Karina Woodka, Senior Regional Director of People & Culture, took the time to talk with us about why they are a Fair Opportunity Employer, and take the time to come inside to facilities and volunteer with Breakthrough.
Why did Sage Hospitality decide to volunteer the Breakthrough program?
At Sage, our mission is to enrich lives, one experience at a time. There are so many ways we aim to do this, one of which being community engagement. Breakthrough plays such a vital role in supporting success of people impacted by the justice system. As a people-centric organization, the efforts Breakthrough dives into directly reflect our organizational ethos. It was a total no-brainer to volunteer.
What is one thing that sticks out to you about the Breakthrough program?
The most impactful part about the Breakthrough program is just how humanizing it is. From first glance, when you complete the scary security paperwork, or drive up to the penitentiary grounds, it feels so daunting. Then, once you enter and are greeted by the incredible humans that make up the program, your hesitations clear. The major benefit of this program being in a secure facility like a prison is you can’t bring any outside distractions in. You have a moment to fully immerse yourself in making a human connection And, from a hospitality perspective, that makes our heart go pitter patter.
What is the best part about going in to volunteer at the milestone events?
On day one, you can sense hesitation in the room. As soon as you do the empathy exercise, emotional walls disappear. Everyone gets comfortable being vulnerable. It truly is an incredible transformation.
What is one “myth” you’d want to bust about individuals who have been incarcerated?
One myth I am passionate about is that they are not defined by their charges. Humans are beautifully complex and flawed, and it’s about time that we give them the grace and space to grow from their past. I wish everyone took more time to understand the full picture behind someone’s criminal history. There is just so much more to the story.
Why is Sage Hospitality a Fair Chance employer?
We believe in advocating and amplifying the voices of people who deserve to have their voices amplified. We believe in supporting someone’s professional success, whether we are the end all be all career for them, or just one the help them get back on their feet. We exist to provide hospitality to both our traditional guests/customers, our internal guests/customers, and the community as a whole. We are deeply determined to help people.
What is one thing you would say to your peers to get them to become a Fair Chance employer?
There are so many benefits, whether it be our overall time to fill metrics for candidate sourcing, our property engagement with understanding a broader aspect of the community, or ultimately- the fact that it changes lives. It changes lives of associates who build bonds with people they never imagined they would. It changes lives by providing an anchor to someone’s previously unstable livelihood. It supports our economy by allowing individuals to see success outside the confines of a prison. There are endless reasons to support the decision of becoming a fair chance employer.
Anything else you would like to add:
All that I can add as additional feedback is thank you. Thank you to the incredible advocates who support Breakthrough and thank you to the resilient participants who grow through Breakthrough.