Rontosh Gibbs walks into a room with a smile of confidence and appreciation for life. Born in Kingston North Carolina, Rontosh moved to Kansas City, Missouri at the age of 8. Along with his parents, Rontosh suffered from a life of poverty that steered him to the streets. Feeling a sense of regret about his circumstances, he tried to no avail to get away from the fast lifestyle that soon led him to his first arrest at the early age of 13. Before long, a life of criminal activity caught up with him, leading to incarceration.
Spending 14 years in prison, he realized his transformation would not be easy. During that time, he was sent to the “hole”, or solitary confinement, where he says he was able to self-reflect. Rontosh knew he needed to make a change. That development would take patience and time, and he was up for the challenge. Rontosh eventually found himself in an intensive drug treatment at the Ozark Correctional Center and began to gain stability and clarity of thought. Motivated by family and how supportive they had been, all he wanted was to do better and see them smile. Focusing on his spirituality and his commitment to growth, Rontosh knew he had to be a better role model not only for his family but for the community as well.
With the tools and supports in place from Ozark CC, Rontosh came home to Kansas City, but was still uncertain how to remain stable and successful on Parole. He connected with a friend he met on his way to sobriety, a graduate of Second Chance, who advised him to take advantage of the opportunity of help. Determined never to give up on himself or his four children, he sought the assistance of Second Chance. During his time with the program and the help from his Resource Specialist, he was able to solidify employment, and is excited to celebrate a year of employment in June 2023.
But successful reentry is not just about employment. He was referred to other programs to assist with digital literacy, budgeting and saving money, he was able to obtain his driver's license and purchase a vehicle all within a short amount of time. The connections that he had made, and the positive community support systems were exactly what he needed to push forward after being away from the community and his family for so many years.Things are looking up.
Reading, writing, sports, and spending time with his children are what is most important to Rontosh now. When asked what he would tell his younger self if he could go back in time, he stated, “I would tell young Rontosh to never give up on himself, or it's over.” He wants his brothers and sisters coming out of incarceration to give themselves a chance to become a better version of who they are meant to be. Apply yourself and treat others the way you want to be treated.