Victor Rodriguez

Victor Rodriguez spent 20 years in prison after a gang-related fight that ended in the death of a young man in Humboldt Park. Although he didn’t actually commit the crime, he was held accountable for another man’s action.

Computer Lab Technician

As the years went by, I started maturing and understanding the consequences of what happened,” he said. “I wondered when I would get out. Just being away from my family was the hardest part.”

Rodriguez gained some experience in prison doing “accounts payable, accounts receivable” work, and when he was finally released he worked for?a temp agency. But he?was fired when the company?learned about his background. That’s when a friend gave him the phone number to Safer Foundation.

At Safer, he went through the job readiness training, where he learned how to present himself and prepare for interviews, create a resume, fill out applications and also how to explain his background. Soon after that, Safer helped him find work part-time, cleaning up empty lots for a neighborhood cleanup program. A few months later, Safer called about a full-time job in a factory, which he also was able to secure. Still, Rodriguez was looking for something better.

Then Safer called again. This time his case manager told Rodriguez about a training program that would teach him how to repair computers.

“I was really determined,” said Rodriguez “I really liked learning about computers, and really wanted a job?in this field.”

Along the way, “Safer was involved the whole time,” he said. “They would give us bus cards to go to school; they would visit us on Friday to make sure that everything was?going fine. They even provided me?with work clothes.”

At the end of the training in December of 2014, Rodriguez interviewed for a job with TEC Services. By December 30, he had the job as a lab assistant with TEC Services Consulting on Chicago’s South Side.

“When I got the email that I had been hired, I felt great and I thought, ‘now I have a secure job and I didn’t have to hide my background because they know it.’ Pay, benefits, insurance, vacation – I never had that in my life,” said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez works for the company in an office that helps CHA residents. “If they come in and say they want to print something out, or want help updating a resume, I help them do that. I also have a chance to study during the day, learning more about computer programs that I can get certified in. And Safer keeps in touch, asking how I’m doing.”

Being employed has helped Rodriguez grow as a person and as a supporter of his family. But that’s not his only sign of growth. He also credits Safer and the training program for helping him become more confident.

Last year, when Safer asked him to speak at an event he said yes.

“But when I saw the amount of people, I couldn’t walk in,” Rodriguez recalled. “They asked me again after I completed the (training) program, and I spoke in front of a big crowd as a success story—without getting cold feet! I was a little nervous, but I did it.”

Rodriguez adds that “I would tell anyone who needs help that Safer is a great organization. They will help you, and you don’t have to hide anything about your background. You just have to be willing to work.”

These days, Rodriguez enjoys his job – but also looks to the future. “I want to continue growing. I didn’t think I could get this far, and I’m here.”

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