During my first week at Growing Home my apartment was burglarized. I knew exactly who it was. The old me would have done the same thing that landed me in jail before, but the new me called Growing Home staff instead. They helped me calm down and think more rationally. That was the beginning of something really unique.
Before Growing Home, I was in survival mode. I was adopted when I was three by my parents. The Burnetts are white and elderly and I am a big black man – even at 12, I was 6 feet tall. Growing up not knowing where I came from made it hard to find my identity, so I acted out. My parents couldn’t handle my behavior, so at 12 I was sent back into the foster system.
Once I turned 21 and aged out of the system, I became homeless. I got into college but had to survive while living in shelters. I was arrested for armed robbery, did some time, and became a convicted felon. Trying to find a job that will hire a felon is hard. They would look at me and turn their head or clutch their purses.
Around this time, I became a father to my little girl, Alexi. She made me realize that I had to change my life. So when a cousin told me about this farm in the ‘hood, I applied.
At Growing Home, I was known for my hard work and willingness to do the dirty jobs. I was always taking the initiative to fix broken farm tools like lawn mowers and wheelbarrows, and I learned self-control in the classroom. I learned how to be resilient.
Growing Home helped me see that I don’t have to resort to what I was doing before. They helped me see that I am a hard worker, intelligent, and have great ideas. They didn’t treat me like a felon, so I stopped seeing myself as only that.
Just before I graduated from Growing Home, I got a full-time job offer at Local Foods Grocer & Distributor. Working at Local Foods is amazing. I’ve gotten two raises and a promotion to Pack-Out Lead. It’s a grind, but Growing Home prepared my body and mind for full-time work. In fact, with the support system that Growing Home provides, I feel as if I can accomplish anything.
I joined the Graduate Board and now I’m helping mentor new participants. I just got my driver’s license back, opened a bank account for the first time, and can actually save money. Most of all, I am no longer in survival mode. Now it’s about moving forward, knowing that I always have a place to call if I need support, and that I am capable of doing something great.