RUSS, PRODUCTION SUPERVISOR
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I first started getting into trouble when I was a teenager. It started with petty stuff with the other kids in the neighborhood, like joyriding in cars. Then, I smoked weed and tried other drugs, and it pretty much escalated from that. It went from that to burglaries, assault.

I’d get arrested. Go right back to prison. I wouldn’t last long. But then I got in trouble and they sent me to a new super maximum-security prison where I ended up doing 19 years. It was a completely different story.

In prison they kept telling me, “You’re not going to be able to reacclimate to society.

You’re going to struggle with this. You’re going to struggle with that.” I was told I wouldn’t make it 30 days. There was no way I would be able to assimilate back into society. They said it’s just not going to be possible.

But, I had made my decision in prison about what I was going to do when I got out. That I was never going back. I made that choice in there. So, I got my GED. When they had college courses available, I took them. When they ended that program, I pretty much self-educated myself on whatever I could get ahold of to read.

When I did get out some of the changes that had taken place were a little bit of a shock. The first thing I noticed was the cars. There were so many cars. It changed so much. And when I got out to the halfway house, they told me, “You’ve got to do this resume” because we didn’t have resumes back then. “You’ve got to do a cover letter,” and I didn’t know what any of that was.

I started in the makeup department at Dave’s as a temp and I got hired on. From there I worked hard and worked my way up. I give everything I have day in and day out. I’m one of them guys that’s on the floor all the time. Now I’m production a supervisor.

It’s different now. Everything that I thought, or I believed in, changed, my whole thought process, basically. I changed in prison. I used to get mad and have all these different emotions, but the main thing that I got mad about was at myself because my potential was far greater than I accepted.

I’m 54 now; I’ve got a few years. What I’ve learned is that a person, when they’re ready for change, they’re going to do whatever it takes for that change. If they’re sincere, then you get loyalty. You get somebody that actually cares about what they’re doing, and they give you everything they have. It’s because they appreciate what they have.

I’ve learned that whatever you want to accomplish, you can. It’s there.