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Instilling Change: Alayna Graves

Alayna met me in the park, wearing her Save-A-Lot uniform. She was going to work soon after our meeting. It’s one of her three jobs, and she’s proud of them all. It used to be that she couldn’t hold a job at all. That was 6 years ago now, when she was living in her addiction.

Alayna’s addiction began when she was 19 years old. For most of her adult life, she stayed with friends or whomever she was dating, never having a place of her own. When she tried to work, she would come in late, leave early, or fail to come in at all inevitably and lose the job. During this stage of her life, she was incarcerated four times. The first three times were relatively short, ranging from a month to about 6 months. It was the final one, for a sentence of five and a half years, that forced her to reevaluate what she wanted from life. She participated in programs and took classes, but most of all she thought about what she wanted for her life and what she didn’t want.

When Alayna was released from prison in August of 2021, she dove into her new life headfirst. Life had changed between 2016 and 2021, especially since she had to navigate the Covid 19 pandemic. With her first clear vision of what she wanted, though, she didn’t let that stop her. She found two jobs on her own and saved enough to finance a car but hit a wall when it came time to find a place to live. That was when her PO recommended that she go to Second Chance.

Alayna entered the Second Chance program in December of 2021, through a shorter program focused on housing, since she already had two jobs. She was in her own place by March of 2022. When she entered the program, she was living with her mother and stepfather. Shortly after entering, though, she had a falling out with her stepfather and moved in with her sister-in-law. She told me that when she explained the situation to her Resource Specialist, the Resource Specialist moved things along faster than normal. However, something we say at Second Chance is that the client drives the bus. It was Alayna’s motivation that allowed her Resource Specialist to work so quickly with her.

The program was strict, she said, but that strictness was what allowed her to succeed. In addition to finding leads on housing, she learned how to budget and look for what she could afford. After her hard work and support from Second Chance, Alayna was accepted into an apartment. It was her first place of her own.

Today, Alayna’s life is a complete 180 from how she lived in 2016. She has things she never dreamed of: her first apartment, a car, furniture, and a closet full of clothes. She has three jobs now, and she’s learning how to do taxes professionally, something she watched her mother do but never believed that she could. She’s also a role model to those she knew before who are still in their addictions. As she says, “If I can do it, anyone can. You just have to put forth the effort. Never give up.”

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