Everyone makes mistakes – what matters is learning from them. This truth, as simple as it may seem, has been revolutionary in the life of Jermaine Talton. If you were to meet this 45 year old New Haven native with a stable job and three thriving young children, it would be hard to believe that not long ago, his life was on a completely different path.
Five years ago, Jermaine was struggling to keep a job as he sought to reenter the New Haven community after a total of 14 years of incarceration. “I had a couple jobs, but they never lasted,” he recounted. “I felt like I had been a bad kid my whole life and that was the path I had to stay on. My whole perception was that if a job didn’t work out, I could still go back and sell drugs.”
A friend told Jermaine about EMERGE, a workforce program that United Way helped nurture and grow in New Haven. It helps those who were formerly incarcerated successfully reenter their communities and families. He was determined to change the path he was on, but knew he couldn’t do it alone. “Everything was looking bleak,” he stated. “I didn’t want to go back down the route I was already going.”
Not only did Jermaine find the resources he needed to rebuild his life, but he now works full-time at EMERGE and with at-risk youth. The training that played a part in making this change possible is called Circle of Security. Since 2013, United Way has hosted Circle of Security-Parenting courses at EMERGE. It teaches parents to recognize their children’s cues, support their development, and foster stronger relationships.
Jermaine recognized the effect his choices were having on his kids. Since completing Circle of Security, he has seen a significant difference in his relationship with his children. The program supported Jermaine’s desire to form a trust-based relationship with them by teaching him to be mindful of their needs, emotions, and struggles. Through this, Jermaine’s kids now come to him regularly for guidance and encouragement.
“When my kids grow up, I want them to do what is best,” Jermaine explained. “All I can do is show them by what I’m doing – they watch and learn.” The change in Jermaine’s life not only impacts his children now, but it also influences their future. With the stable income and support of his father, Jermaine’s son is among the first in their family planning to attend college.
“Statistically, more than half of those who were previously incarcerated will go back to jail within two years,” remarked Alden Woodcock, EMERGE Deputy Director. “The majority of them just want a chance.” United Way supports programs like EMERGE and Circle of Security to give people that chance.
The help Jermaine has been given today allows him to strive for a better tomorrow.
“These programs are very important to me. Coming here taught me not to give up on myself,” Jermaine said. “I was one of the people who helped bring this community down. In order to bring the community back up, you have to put yourself into it.”