Just because we’ve made mistakes in our past doesn’t mean that we’re going to continue to make the same mistakes. When felons put themselves out there and apply for a job they’re already so vulnerable, just having that opportunity for an interview is a huge step for encouragement.

When you get turned down on the phone because you have a criminal record, that’s really disappointing. With felonies on my record, every place that I applied would tell me, “We can’t take you because it’s within five years. I’m sorry…” no matter how good my resume looked. I kept asking myself, “What am I going to do?” Then my boyfriend told me about Dave’s Killer Bread and I was like, “Oh, that sounds really cool. And it’s felon-friendly.”

It really was important to me that they did ask about my criminal record, and that it wasn’t a judgment. It was more of, “Well, we want to know what you did and how overcame it, to gauge if you’re going to continue to overcome challenges to succeed. Because if we’re going to give you this opportunity then you have to want it for yourself too.”

That’s what I really like about Dave’s Killer Bread. Everybody’s here because they want to be and it’s holding us together; we build each other up in a positive way and make sure that we all succeed in this opportunity that we have been given.

It started when I was really young, and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. This guy I met introduced me to methamphetamine. I had never met anybody who had gone to prison or done those type of hard drugs. He just wheeled me into this whole other flip-side lifestyle and I just got carried away with it for a couple of years.

We did a crime together and then I took the charges for him. It was a downward spiral from there. I got let out on a pre-release trial and I ran. I was so scared. Over about a three-year span, I was arrested probably 24 times. I said to myself, “I can’t be arrested any more. The next time I’m going to prison. I want to do something that can change my life.”

After being released on Christmas Eve of 2016, I walked all the way from downtown Portland to Sellwood. I saw my current boyfriend and his parents, and I just cried, and I was like, “I’m so glad to be here and I don’t want to leave my family again.”

It felt like I was a different person, “I needed to get back to me and challenge myself in a good way.” I feel like doing crime and living on that dark social scene is almost a scapegoat for dealing with your problems and with yourself.

Senior mixer is a step before a lead, so you’re definitely priming yourself to be a leader and teach other people what you know in the mix room. I think that’s a really great fit for me because I’m a natural leader; I just love seeing people grow and eager to learn.

We’re huge advocates for accountability, and I think that really helps with the recovery process. We make sure that everybody shows up and we hold each other accountable for doing our part in the mix room and always have positive affirmations for each other. We never put anybody down, and if somebody needs help, we’re more than willing to help that person, “Our team is like a second family.”

When you feel good about yourself, you can do anything. There are so many opportunities out there, you just have to find what’s right for you, and if you’re positive and uplifting, good things will come to you.