Finding Purpose


Santos Colon from West Haven has found his purpose.

Returning home after incarceration took some adjusting, but learning new skills in the construction field gave him hope for a brighter future.

Santos participated in EMERGE Connecticut, Inc. a program that helps the formerly incarcerated make a successful return to their communities by providing employment services, literacy and numeracy tutoring, counseling, a support system, and more.

And now at age 35, Santos has never felt achievement like this before.

Originally from the Bronx, Santos grew up without parents and says he has been in and out of prison for dealing drugs since age 14. He tried other programs with no success, but heard about the benefits of EMERGE from another inmate during his last term.

After enrolling in EMERGE last January, Santos made a commitment to learn, and continues to build upon his skills—even getting hired at EMERGE.

United Way partners with EMERGE because we know their work gets real results for our community. In fact, nearly 9 in 10 EMERGE participants improve to 12th grade reading and math scores while in the program, and more than 6 in 10 participants leave the program with a job lined up.

Now Santos is a supervisor himself. He works full-time, gets paid well, and feels connected to his colleagues, coworkers, and community.

“That’s what made me feel better. These people have been incarcerated and seeing the position that they’re in—it’s opened up my mind.”

As Santos approaches his one-year anniversary of employment, he dreams of opening up his own construction company and maybe even a non-profit for youth—a place for them to stay out of trouble.

Santos hopes that all of the skill-building and career progress will one day help him reunite with his children.

“The more things I’m learning, the more things that I’m doing, it’s opening up doors for my kids.”