Westhab client Tawan Frazier describes his involvement with the criminal justice system as, “a minor setback for a great comeback.” With that attitude, it is no wonder Tawan was quickly able to parlay his participation in the LEAP program into a full-time job and a promising future in the HVAC industry.
Tawan’s setback is not an unfamiliar story. One of four kids born and raised in Greenburgh into a close-knit family, Tawan was a typical teenager who got himself into trouble from time to time. But no matter what happened, and even as he found himself involved with the criminal justice system, Tawan never lost his drive to succeed. This served both Tawan and his classmates well during LEAP.
LEAP, which stands for Linking Employment Activities Pre-Release, is a federally funded program that provides incarcerated males in Westchester County who are pending release with a four-week attitudinal/job readiness course. After release, participants are afforded opportunities to receive career guidance and to participate in additional training and employment programs. Tawan attended the initial four-week program at the Westchester County Department of Corrections in January of 2018 and was an active participant—providing great feedback during group activities, quarterbacking the group in discussions around maintaining employment post-release, and generally exemplifying leadership throughout.
But Tawan did not just talk the talk; he walked the walk. Once released, he stayed committed and determined to move forward, keeping in continuous contact with the LEAP program as he enrolled in an HVAC (Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning) program at Southern Westchester BOCES. He also interviewed for a position as a housekeeper at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla and was hired full time. Currently, Tawan is enrolled in his third HVAC course at BOCES and is doing extremely well.
Since Westhab Employment Services began working with LEAP in 2017, more than 35 of 47 participants have either gained employment and/or have enrolled in specialized training programs. Eleven have received a certificate of completion from a specialized training program. This is no minor feat. Not only do many transitioning offenders lack the necessary education and skills to compete in a competitive job market where stable employment opportunities are scarce—even for those who have no criminal justice involvement—many also face housing insecurity and issues around mental health and substance abuse. Securing childcare and transportation are often additional challenges.
Tawan, like many of his fellow LEAP participants, has his commitment and determination to move forward to thank for his success—with a nod to the LEAP program for offering the training and encouragement that he needed to jumpstart his career.