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First JFL class offered at Deer Ridge prison; inmates tell what it's meant to them

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Receiving certificates of Jobs For Life completion are, from back left, Deer Ridge Correctional Institution inmates Chris, Chad, Adam, A.J., Evan, and Robert. Middle row, Marrisa Wilson, DRCI transitions coordinator, Johnny, Jobs For Life director and instructio Charitie Gamble, Jeff, Bill, and Jonathan. Front row, Rudy, James and Brand.
The fourth group to graduate from the local Jobs For Life program – 13 inmates at the Deer Ridge Correction Facility in Madras – received their certificates Dec. 9, from instructor Charitie Gamble.

Gamble, learned about the program at the Christian Community Development Association Conference in North Carolina in 2014, brought it to Jefferson County, and hosted the first class in the state of Oregon in spring of 2015.

"This class is why we have the Jobs For Life Program in Jefferson County and now several more sites in the state of Oregon," she said.

"I was sitting in my hotel room in North Carolina back in 2014, when God showed me a graduating class from DRCI. Although I couldn't see clearly their faces, I knew this was an important step for our community and DRCI. But now I know who they are and I couldn't be more proud of this class," Gamble said.

The mission of the Jobs For Life program is, "Restoring Dignity, Changing Lives, Transforming Communities."

"I feel that we are well on our way in honoring that mission statement. These graduates are mountain movers and I am excited and humble to have been in all of my students' lives. It took two years, but God fulfilled his vision and promise to me, our community and to these men," Gamble said.

When Gamble asked the men why they took the class, what they got out of the class, and how they were planning to use what they learned in the future, they shared the following statements:

Rudy: "I learned how to be a better example and I will use the tools here to better myself."

Chad: "I took this class to help ease the stress related to being released and reentering society and the job market. I felt that the class strengthened past skills, and I learned new ones. I plan on using principles set out in class in seeking employment. Charitie brought hope and fellowship to a dark place." A.J.: "I didn't know why I took the class, but it was the most positive and impactful thing I have ever done. I have gained confidence and knowledge and tools to gaining employment upon my release."

"This is the first thing I have ever graduated from, and the graduation ceremony was such a life-changing thing for me. I now have graduated from Jobs For Life, obtained my GED and succeeded in the Peer Leadership Program," he said.

Evan noted: "I took this class because I want to get ready to get a job. I enjoyed the fellowship with my classmates and I learned how to do a resume and I plan to use it every time I go to get a job."

Brand: "This must be my last time returning to these walls, and my work history outside prison walls is a minimum at best. I took it to prepare for my new journey when I walk out these doors for the last time."

"What was the best thing I got out of class? That I am a new creation in Christ and my past does not define my future, only my steps from this moment on do. And I plan on using what I have learned to be a successful member in the community," he said.

Jeff said: "I took this class to gain any positive trade skills, information, people skills, resume building, job searches, communication skills. The scripture and prayer were great -- and learning to utilize God in all of our endeavors."

Johnny: "I took it because it was faith-based, I found friends for life and I have learned to never give up on myself, because God has a plan for me (Jeremiah 29:11)."

Robert took the class to prepare for his future. "The best thing I got out of class was the relation of scripture to our lives in the work place, and I want to utilize the skills I've learned and pass it on along, with my good references from Jobs For Life, to my future employer," Robert said.

Adam, James, Bill, Chris and Jonathan all said they learned new skills, learned that they have a future when they are released, and said they were thankful for Gamble and her time volunteering to teach the Jobs For Life class at the prison.

Gamble said the next class at DRCI is already filling up and a third class is well on its way to being full, as well.

"This is a 12-week course. Each student has to purchase their workbook and to do so sometimes is hard, but this is a lifetime investment into who they are and who their identity is, and how that translates into their jobs and families.

The Jobs For Life program is under the umbrella of the Jefferson County Faith-Based Network, which is a nonprofit 501C3 organization. To learn more about Jobs For Life program or the Faith Based Network, attend meetings on the third Thursday of the month, at 12 p.m., at St. Charles Madras. To RSVP for the meeting, contact Gamble at Mid Oregon Personnel in Madras at 541-475-7640.

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