After serving time in prison more than a decade ago, Antoine Boykins moved into a halfway house and looked for a way to return as a productive member of society in his hometown of Baltimore. He found Project JumpStart, an intensive three-month training program in the construction industry that prepares people for success on the jobsite and beyond. Ex-offenders comprise roughly 75 percent of those enrolled in the program, which began in Baltimore and is expanding throughout Maryland.
“If you’re willing to work, if you’re willing to pick up a tool, if you’re ready to learn something, there’s opportunities waiting for you behind closed doors somewhere,” said Boykins, a graduate and program instructor who now works as a field supervisor for a scaffolding company. “You gotta knock at the door. You gotta bust through the door.”
Before Project JumpStart, Tavon Paige had no experience working with his hands, let alone on major construction projects. Now an electrician, he proudly points out his handiwork to family and friends. He also shares advice with young people in his old neighborhood.
“I’m trying to tell them there’s a different way. There’s a better way,” Paige said.
During Second Chance Month and throughout the year, Koch Industries supports programs like Project JumpStart to help more people get a second chance at improving their lives and their communities. Nearly half of inmates—47 percent—surveyed in a 2016 study by the National Center for Education Statistics said they were concerned about future job prospects, either in prison or upon release. The same study found that just 7 percent of inmates earned vocational certificates while incarcerated, while 29 percent said they wanted to do so. The average Project JumpStart graduate is older than 30; in fact, nearly half are older than 35. More than 1,000 have graduated from the program over the past 12 years, with more than 75 percent placing in high-wage construction careers.
“There are thousands out there who if given the right opportunity can still have lives of meaning and purpose, building self-confidence as they build our community,” said Mike Henderson, president and CEO of Associated Builders and Contractors in Baltimore. “We expect a lot from our students because we know they can deliver, and they have.”
Read another story of how second chances have changed people’s lives.