Q&A with ReEntry Counselor Kenneth Sohriakoff
1. What is your role and how long have you been at Goodwill-Easter Seals Minnesota?
- I have been at Goodwill-Easter Seals Minnesota (GESMN) for 9 years and 4 months in the ReEntry program. I’ve had multiple titles and roles but basically, I’m a case manager with men and women coming out of prison or jail, that are seeking employment, careers and lifestyle changes. I help them find employment, look at specific training that can help with employment and facilitate lifestyle change in a mentor group, as well as in 1 on 1 conversations.
2. What parts of your job do you find the most rewarding?
- The most rewarding part is to see men and women make that change from their previous lifestyle to the present. Then have them come back or refer others to us for the same process! Charles is one example. He has been out of our program for 4 or 5 years but calls often and comes in with a cousin, friend or acquaintance he met in prison and strongly suggests they join our programs.
3. What do you wish people knew more about the ReEntry program?
- I wish people would know that ReEntry is a whole person program. We do not JUST help them find work, but as ReEntry counselors we are often their first and sometimes ONLY connection to honesty, trust and dependency. Often these participants are recognized by their OID (Offender Identification) and their last name. In ReEntry we ALWAYS call them by their first name to remove the stigma of the OID.
4. Is there a participant(s) who stand out in your mind or whose stories were impactful?
- I can think of many who stand out, one being Brian. He completed training in one of our federally funded grant programs and graduated from construction skills class. Two years ago, he came by our campus to tell us how much he appreciated our help and was off to a job in North Dakota to work in the construction field as an electrician starting at $50.00 an hour!
- Matt, another graduate of one of our federally funded grant programs, obtained a job at our St. Paul campus. First in trucking, then got promoted to purchased goods and became a manager. He was taught how to operate the forklift and accepted a job in GESMN’s Services and Programs department. He has since moved on to a career outside of GESMN and is successful there.
- Freddie, who after years and years in the “system” decided to make a change in attitude and life. He started his own business and is now successful as a self-employed landscape artist. I could keep on with more names, but I’ll stop here.
5. What will you miss the most about Goodwill-Easter Seals Minnesota when you retire this month?
- What I will miss most is the interaction with people. GESMN has a unique array of employees and participants. The variety of connections and relationships are what I believe make it so unique. And of course, the team I am a part of. Andrew Freberg and Jake Nowack are both fine, incredible men who don’t just work for GESMN, they live our mission, “eliminate the barriers of work and independence.”