“I was at a turning point. I could have repeated the cycle that I had been in for the last 20 years, or I could have gone down a new path,” said Mike, reflecting on his journey from parole to professor. After his time in Massachusetts Department of Corrections, Mike found himself in treatment, but he decided that this time would be his last. “I don’t know how to do anything 50%. I am either all in, or I run,” he said. He was determined to make the most of his time in treatment attending meetings, getting involved with his recovery group, and building community. For the first time in a long time, Mike was surrounded by support, and he didn’t fight against it – he began to work with it. In doing so, he found a support system in ATR that he called, “the whole package.”
While Mike admitted that he joined ATR for the initial basic needs fund, “what I got out of it was so much more important.” In every aspect of his recovery, Mike not only accepted everyone’s support, but he also built lasting relationships with them that he could rely on. His ATR Coordinator and other ATR staff at the Gavin Foundation encouraged him, answered his calls when he needed someone, and pushed him toward his own success. When Mike spoke of the Gavin team, specifically Doug, Stephen, and Ryan, (who you may remember reading about in our previous issue of The Corner) he said, “I was completely blessed. Not just with the program itself, but with some amazing people that I knew were there to support me…and they all kind of complemented each other, without even knowing it.”
When he enrolled in ATR Career Services and began computer technology courses at the Benjamin Franklin Cummings Institute of Technology (BFCIT), Mike leaned on Ryan when the courseload felt beyond his control. “There is one other person I have to speak about,” and that is Kristen Hurley, Chief Strategy Officer at BFCIT. Mike said, “I had many people advocate for me throughout my life, but I had never met someone like Kristen. Not only did she advocate, she was [also] a cheerleader.” Mike shared that Kristen was responsive when he had questions, she listened when he was worried about his certification exams, and her dedication to his success went beyond his journey as a student as she advocated for him on his way to employment.
While enrolled in the computer technology courses, Mike needed additional help. BFCIT contracted with a tutor to help him and his classmates with the work. “They hired someone that would deal specifically with our demographic…we got specialized services and individual attention. That was huge,” Mike said. He excelled in the program, graduated at the top of his class, and the school recognized him with an award for his academic success. Sometime after graduation, in a full circle moment, Mike was asked to step in as a tutor for BFCIT students, and then joined the team as a full-time instructor where he now teaches two classes of ATR participants. “I am just so happy where I am and to be able to work with ATR students is incredible. They have my upmost respect. They don’t know what a miracle they are,” Mike said.
In all of Mike’s success through the ATR program, as a BFCIT faculty member, and as an individual in recovery, his confidence and humility sit side by side. He knows what he is capable of and he takes every opportunity to celebrate those who helped him get where he is today. When he spoke of the courage and bravery he sees in the ATR participants he teaches, having been through what they are going through, Mike recognized that he can now see his own courage and bravery. He shared, “When I walk into class and the students say, ‘Good morning, Professor,’…it makes it all worth it.”