Instilling Change: Elsie Coleman-Hamilton

American psychologist, Abraham Maslow, summed up how challenging it can be to grow when he said, "One can choose to go back toward safety or forward toward growth. Growth must be chosen again and again; fear must be overcome again and again.” Elsie Coleman-Hamilton, current Second Chance client, chooses growth every day and works hard to overcome all of the challenges that come with prison reentry.

Elsie is from Arkansas and worked as a talented hairdresser for years before she was incarcerated. However, Elsie did not sit idly by while she was in prison; she took every opportunity she had to grow and prepare for her reentry as best as she could. She participated in a service dog program called “PAWS with a Cause” which helped her grow in her self-discipline and communication skills, finalized her cosmetology license, and worked in the library assistance program. Elsie also took advantage of opportunities to further her education; while incarcerated, she earned her associate’s degree in Paralegal Studies and participated in a quality assurance program that helped pay for her tuition.

Near the end of her incarceration, she started researching programs in Kansas City that could help guide her throughout the reentry process which is when she initially found out about Second Chance. The reentry process is difficult enough as it is, but Elsie was also being released from incarceration in a city where she knew no one in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. All her family and friends live in southeast Missouri, so Elsie had to face the challenges of reentry alone which was very intimidating at first. She met a woman in the transitional home she was living in who told her more about the Second Chance Program and Elsie decided to enroll herself.


Once Elsie got involved with the Second Chance program, she realized that she would need to be willing to work hard to land on her feet, but she graciously accepted all of the help she received from Second Chance. Elsie reflected that Second Chance helped her with everything from teaching her how to set goals for herself to providing her with the connections needed to secure her first job post-incarceration. Right now, her Resource Specialist is helping her through the process of getting her cosmetology license transferred from Arkansas to Missouri; Elsie is famous for having a new hairstyle every time you see her, so she is especially excited and thankful for the help through this process.


Elsie says that the most helpful component of the Second Chance Program for her has been learning how to plan ahead and always strive for better. The program helped her prepare and plan for permanent housing and her Resource Specialist consistently encourages her to picture where she wants to be in the future. This has helped Elsie stay focused when she was struggling the most with being away from her family; she is extremely grateful for how Second Chance has helped make her aware of all of the supportive resources available to her in Kansas City.


Elsie’s proudest post-incarceration accomplishment has been her successful relocation – she was initially terrified of having to pave her own way in an unfamiliar city with no one to lean on, but now she has built great relationships here and found that Kansas City has been exactly the fresh start she was looking for. Her advice to those in similar situations is to stay focused, don’t give up, and be willing to work hard for the help you’re seeking.


Elsie is still constantly setting goals and says that growth is a daily journey, but she is grateful that Second Chance continues to support her and encourage her to always strive to be the best version of herself. We are so proud of all of the progress Elsie has made since joining the program and we can’t wait to continue to watch her grow!


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