|AMTC & Associates News – January/February|
Amir Williams describes himself as “deep in the streets” from a very young age. He spent his teenage years at a school for at-risk youth, which the courts required him to attend. At age 19, he was arrested for armed robbery and spent more than a year in state prison. Upon release, he struggled to abide by probation requirements and was again incarcerated.
Then an experience in the summer of 2018 changed his life forever: his probation officer referred him to a reentry program through Philadelphia OIC, an affiliate of the Opportunities Industrialization Centers of America (OICA). Individuals who have been incarcerated are finding hope and stability through OICA, an organization headquartered in Philadelphia with 34 affiliates around the country. OICA affiliates provide educational and workforce development services to individuals in struggling communities.
Awarded four reentry grants by the U.S. Department of Labor, OICA coordinates programming and oversees its delivery for affiliates involved in this type of work. It is a leader in reintegrating individuals into society by fostering self-sufficiency in every facet of life: employment, family responsibilities, financial literacy and emotional stability.
Williams was referred to Philadelphia’s OIC’s SOAR program. He had already been in a series of reentry programs, but none had been effective. He was distrustful and detached, which again led to probation issues. The staff at Philadelphia OIC worked with him and the probation officer to form trust.
That summer, Williams enrolled in a housekeeping program through Philadelphia OIC’s Hospitality Training Institute. He was on time every day and earned the second-
highest grades in the class. He secured an internship that turned into a paying job, and now he is forging a better life.
OICA affiliates provide an array of workforce development functions and programs that are transforming lives. Success rates are high, but not all participants are ready to change their environment or summon the strength to change behavior. Yet OICA and its affiliates are not deterred; they believe everyone deserves a chance.