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VSC October 2022 Newsletter

We are always booming with activity here at Voices for a Second Chance (VSC). We continue to provide services for D.C. residents reentering the community and we always have a lot going on!

Our 50 years of experience have provided some valuable lessons which continue to ensure VSC’s growth in scope and work collaborating with the Washington D.C. criminal justice system and community stakeholders. VSC has never wavered from its premise to build bridges with justice-involved D.C. residents during incarceration and after their release to create, maintain, and strengthen family and community ties.

We believe in providing comprehensive services to justice-involved persons serving months to years of incarceration in jail and federal institutions in an effort to create positive outcomes. With you as our partners in the D.C. community working with our clients, we will continue to achieve success together. We are excited to share this newsletter, Second Chance News, to keep our supporters informed throughout the year.

~ Paula

VSC is honored to be one of seven recipients of the True Reformer Grant award by the Public Welfare Foundation!

“In its commitment to provide trauma-informed, family-centered, culturally competent care to all individuals, Voices for a Second Chance upholds the vision of Public Welfare Foundation to advance opportunities and just treatment of all D.C. individuals impacted by the criminal legal system. Being one of only a few awardees we are humbled to be acknowledged and energized to continue to provide resources to returning citizens.”

New Terrain: Pathway to Sustainability

One of our goals at VSC is to offer a stable and sustainable path towards independent living. Towards a New Terrain is one of our new initiatives developed to assist individuals creating sustainability with essential vital supports such as moving from short term temporary housing to permanent housing. As part of this initiative, we offer home goods, furniture, mobile phones, work uniforms, and other items necessary to gain independence. Empowerment is not enough! We want to provide the tools in hand so that they can achieve their goals.

Congratulating our own Dr. Michelle Sermon

Our VSC team would like to congratulate our Clinical Supervisor, Dr. Michelle Sermon, on earning The Doctor of Philosophy, Social Work degree from the University of Maryland!

Michelle C. Sermon is a licensed social worker who has worked with VSC since 2013, serving racially marginalized, justice-involved individuals, their children, and extended families. Michelle's clinical expertise is counseling adults with trauma, severe mental illness, and co-occurring conditions. A skilled, justice-oriented facilitator, Michelle creates and conducts innovative professional development trainings for individuals and community groups, and organizations, using her social work research, genetics background, and professional experience to reconstruct the treatment narrative and improve professional practice with African Americans and other marginalized populations.

With almost 20 years of experience working with diverse communities, she is also an expert in diversity, equity, and inclusion and serves as a consultant and facilitator for a broad collection of organizations and industries. A capable researcher, Michelle uses history to elucidate the experiences of intergenerational racialization experienced as trauma by African Americans in rural southern U.S. communities to develop and implement effective, community-specific healing strategies. In addition to her Ph.D. in Social Work, Michelle holds a Master of Social Work degree from George Mason University and a Master of Science degree in Human Genetics from Howard University.

Our VSC team is incredibly proud of Michele and wish her the best in all her future endeavors!

Welcome our new Director of Development and Communications, Matti Miranda

This September, we welcomed Matti Miranda as VSC’s Director of Development and Communications!

Matti is an experienced fundraiser and strategist. With extensive client facing experience, strategic planning experience, and technical expertise, she is passionate about giving back to her community. Matti has years as a Digital Strategist and developed and implemented digital fundraising strategies for more than 20 U.S. House Congressional candidates. Matti has extensive project management experience as one of the founding members of the nation’s largest organization training the next generation of political entrepreneurs.

At VSC, Matti will be expanding the communications platforms to better connect with clients and the local community. She will also be fortifying VSC’s donor base to make sure that VSC continues to grow in our support of returning citizens in D.C.

Welcome to the team, Matti!

Message from Hop

Mr. Charles ''Hop'' Hopkins, is our Peer Engagement & Advocacy Coordinator at VSC. He supports our clients in navigating employment, resources, and services within the community for returning citizens.

As a graduate of our Training our Voices program, a returning citizen, community advocate and activist, and one of our newest members of our VSC team, Hop is

committed to expanding services and resources for returning citizens and justice-involved individuals through advocating on core issues for productive reentry. In an effort to expand connections with community members, Hop will be presenting resources, community events, and history related to incarceration and reentry to bridge the gap from incarceration to community.

Here is a message from Hop:

“Long before there was a Second Chance Act, Second Chance Month or the current White House stance on Second Chances, there was and is Voices for a Second Chance. Although these acts and others are getting a lot of media attention, and rightly so, Voices for a Second Chance, has been a trailblazer in providing services to returning citizens for over 50 years.

Today the social justice movement has created favorable terrain for addressing issues of returning citizens. However, this was not the case in the seventies, eighties, or nineties. No reentry services existed in the seventies that helped returning citizens obtain identification, social services, housing, or jobs. No reentry services existed that went into Lorton Reformatory or the D.C. jail to help prisoners reconnect with their families and community. These are some of the things VSC did during a period where returning citizens were called felons or ex-convicts.

There was no ban the box making it easy for returning citizens to get a job and no organization that had case manager resources that connected returning citizens with core services. The only organization doing these things during these times was VSC. The History of Voices for a Second Chance speaks volumes of its commitment to be of service to others.

Voices for a Second Chance has always been at the forefront of providing services to returning citizens. We now have expanded our services, and provide pre-release services to community correctional facilities, Volunteers of America, in Baltimore, Maryland. VSC helps soon to be released returning citizens obtain identification, mental health assistance, housing, and jobs. We also work with women residing at Fairview Halfway House, located in Washington, D.C. Additionally, we have two virtual support groups, Lessons in Law and Staying on Track, facilitated by our very own Michael Dickerson-El, Peer Leader and Reentry Navigator. For more information on Voices for a Second Chance and our services, visit our website at:”

​Members of the VSC team have been very active with our community partners during the following events this summer:

  • The H St Festival,

  • Beat the Streets,

  • D.C. Wave Fest, and

  • The Volunteers of America Community Correctional Facility Job and Resource Fair.

As part of VSC’s pre-release First Responders Services, we continued our work:

  • at the D.C. Department of Corrections Jail based intervention,