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Success Story Friday: Parris

October 29, 2010

In March, Parris Friday was a free man after spending 17 years behind bars.

By September, he was an inspiration to hundreds at our Occupational Skills Training graduation ceremony, a testament to the power of second chances as he represented his class as a graduation speaker.

“I made a choice in my life in 1993, which led me to incarceration for 17 years,” Parris said during his speech. “I hung out with the wrong crowd, which led me to selling drugs, carrying weapons and all kinds of stuff that broke the law. The negative side of me is not the part of the resume I want you to remember; it’s how I reinvented myself.”

Parris wanted a future that could help correct the wrong he’d done, but it wasn’t an easy path. Living in a halfway house in Charlotte, he searched for jobs during the day, only to have doors closed in his face because of his criminal background. He refused to give up. When his case worker asked if Parris knew about Goodwill, he responded, “Yes, they do clothing.”

Little did Parris know he’d begin the process of reinventing himself at our Career Development Center on Freedom Drive. He enrolled in the construction program, and shortly after working with his career counselors Anastasia Knight and Butch Backhaus, he received his first break: a job as a dishwasher at a local restaurant. Then came the second job – a full-time cooking role at a local hospital. He worked both jobs while going to class during the day.

Today Parris works at a Charlotte hospital as a chef. He credits Goodwill’s construction and green skills training and the one-on-one career counseling he received for giving him the chance he needed to change his life. Those months of hard work were realized at graduation: In the audience were his employer and a crowd that was moved by his powerful story of determination.

“In March, I didn’t see myself getting to this point in my life. I had so many things stacked against me,” Parris said.

“Just because you have stumbling blocks in your life doesn’t mean you can’t get the help and guidance you need,” Parris added. “There are places out there like Goodwill that care and are willing to help. I’m living proof of that.”

Editor’s Note: We publish a success story every Friday to get your weekend started off on a positive note! Want more Success Story Fridays? Read previous installments here.



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