“Forget it, this is never going to work, I’m a convicted felon and nobody wants me!”
This feeling of hopelessness haunted Keya Jest for years. Substance abuse and addiction resulted in an extensive criminal background. For many, this would have been the end of the road, but Keya overcame her addiction, and she looked forward to a new beginning. Regardless of being substance-free for two years, Keya’s criminal background was a barrier to finding a good paying job. Keya’s outgoing and sunny disposition helped get her many job offers, but once the employer completed a background check the offers were rescinded.
In 2016, she learned about Step Up’s Chatham Apprentice Program (CAP). At the time, she was working two part-time, low-paying hospitality jobs and barely making ends meet while pursuing a degree in business management at Savannah Tech. Despite her busy life, she made the time to attend the CAP classes, and now says it was one of the best decisions that she ever made.
CAP’s curriculum includes soft skill training, mock interviews, financial education, and legal assistance. The mock interviews introduced Keya to the details that make a big difference when meeting a potential employer, such as poise and professionalism.
“During class, I was tired of doing all the interviews but once I walked into a real job interview, I was so thankful for the practice,” says Keya. “I carried myself with confidence.”
Keya also learned vital financial skills such as building credit, saving for the future, and choosing a bank account from the financial education provided by Consumer Credit Counseling Services. Keya started to dream again, envisioning a wedding and owning a home. But for Keya, meeting Nancy DeVetter of the Georgia Legal Services Program in CAP was a game changer. Nancy worked with Keya to identify eligible records on her background check that could be restricted from public view and explained how Keya could communicate these records with potential employers.
When Keya next applied for a higher wage job it was a different story. Keya explained her history to the employer and provided a character reference from CAP staff. The employer decided to act outside of their regular course of action and brought Keya onboard.
Keya’s new normal includes being substance-free for three years, a good paying job with benefits that she loves, and being able to take care of her rescue dogs. Step Up introduced Keya to a pathway to prosperity and she has never looked back.
On October 12, Keya hosted Step Up Savannah’s 12th Annual Meeting. She was spectacular! We are so proud to have her as both a CAP graduate and friend.