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CCA, Syracuse to Launch New Program for Those Reintegrating Amid COVID with $50,000 Gift

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John Smith / WAER News
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A local program designed to assist those released from long-term incarceration to reintegrate into our community has received a $50,000 grant from AT&T.  The Center for Community Alternatives plans to purchase necessary technology as part of a new digital literacy skills program and to provide some income.  CCA Deputy Director Kelly Gonzalez says the program aims to help those facing social inequities and higher rates of underemployment.

“We really want to make sure that the members of our recovery community have the devices and the skills they need that they can continue to have support group meetings where we might not be able to have them in person all the time because we want to keep people safe.  We want to make sure that if someone is isolated and living on their own and in recovery, that they can continue to talk to their peers and our staff to get those recovery supports that they need.”   

She adds the pandemic has affected CCA’s clients who previously were able to go to their center in person to attend classes about employment or producing something creatively in art.  However, with the new technology such as laptops or tablets provided through the AT&T grant, it will also provide a means to earn some initial income.

“We’re going to be developing short classes on how to use Zoom or how to use their device and actually being able to pay participants a stipend to attend these classes in a model of sort of earn as you learn.”

Mr. Samuels was 37 when he entered prison.  He just celebrated his 75th Birthday with his family.

“At the same time I have to learn patience and I have to take a step at a time.  But, just like substance abuse, I taught that in prison over 3 years.  Cooking and restaurant work… I know my way around the kitchen.  I did that before I even went to jail for many years.  Now I can’t even get a job cause I don’t even have a social security card.”Mr. Samuels, CCA Freedom Commons Academy Participant  

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Credit John Smith / WAER News
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Mr. Samuels is a CCA Freedom Commons Academy Participant.

  “One of the things that we really like to do at CCA is really highlight the strength of our participants and residents; that they can be teaching each other, not just our staff.  So, getting Mr. Samuel online with a Chromebook, comfortable using a camera, comfortable doing a Zoom meeting… you could (Mr. Samuels) take back up mentoring folks as they come home.” - Kelly Gonzalez, CCA Deputy Director

Gonzalez says the holiday season is always difficult for their clients, but this year has been particularly challenging due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  For more information, click here or follow them on social media to learn about success stories.