Raymond had every reason to lose sight of hope. At seven years of age he committed his first crime, assaulting the abusive step-father that was beating his mother relentlessly in the kitchen of their Muncie home. Following that incident he lived with his mother and brother in a facility for abused women and by the age of thirteen was gravitating toward the older gang related kids in his neighborhood. By sixteen, despite the constant intervention of concerned police officers who recognized the potential in Ray, he had dropped out of high school and was running full time as part of a gang, selling drugs to furnish a lavish teenage lifestyle.
The flash all turned to ruin when a tip on a stash of weapons lead Ray and his brother Dennis into a volley of gunfire, resulting in the tragic death of the homeowner they were attempting to rob. Ray was sentenced to prison for his role in the murder and at seventeen years of age he was looking at fifty-five years inside. He would be 72 years old when he was finally returned to society. His entire life would be behind prison walls.
Despite his young age and long sentence Ray went in with hope and optimism. He still believed he could grow and make something good for himself for the day he was finally released. While inside he got his GED, a Bachelors degree and Paralegal and FEMA certifications. During this time he saw people come back to prison after release five and six times, always wondering why they would make choices that would lead them back to prison, and always hearing the same story. There was nothing on the outside for them, no way to work with a felony, no one who would take a chance on them. No way to build a good life so they reverted. Ray could not accept that was the case and pressed on with hope. He worked as a GED tutor and as the lead of the GED program over 300 students. He read extensively and taught himself to play chess. Naturally smart, Ray worked toward a goal of pursuing an intellectual career upon release then providence stepped in. After being denied a job in the law library, the prison assigned him to the maintenance crew. Initially resistant, he was trained by a man who understood the need for a quick thinking smart individual in managing all aspects of a facility and soon Ray began to enjoy learning about and engaging in the hands on engineering of heating and cooling.
When Ray was granted early release in 2015 he directly sought out the WorkOne center in Anderson where he had been part of a youth program so many years before. The office staff were immediately struck with Ray’s professional demeanor and obvious intelligence but it was his smile and optimism that made the strongest impression. He ignored those who said he would not be able to find work or go to school because of his record and now stands as testament to what can be done, rather than what cannot. As a start WorkOne was able to provide funding for school, where he has consistently been at the top of his class at Ivy Tech, his instructors continually impressed with his knowledge and work ethic in school. The W1 staff also began marketing Ray to employers as a strong work candidate, hand delivering his credentials with personal recommendations and educating them on tools such as bonding and tax credits for employers who will take a chance on ex-offenders. By September of 2016 two companies in Indianapolis were vying for Ray for full time positions in HVAC. As of this writing Ray is still a full time student, working full time for Heartland, working part time for two other companies (Ivy Tech as one) and still building the foundation for having his own business within two years.
Eager to share his story Ray will tell you that most people think prison changes you but the truth is that you generally go in and come the same person. That was the truth for Raymond, he went in knowing that his sentence was not the definition of his life, not the sum total of everything he could be. He calls the WorkOne staff the blessing in his life and he credits the support and belief in his dream provided at WorkOne as one of the biggest gifts he was given upon release. He knows they are committed to his path forward and that they see themselves as not only WorkOne staff, but true partners in his continued success. Partners in his success and believers in the vision of what he can be. Partners in the hope that Ray never lost.