Sometimes, we experience obstacles in life that are tough to get over and around. Some of those obstacles are imposed on us. Other obstacles we help create with our own choices. Jason experienced both.
At the age of 11, Jason's grandparents took him in to raise. "My parents were unable to raise me to due drug use and overdosing," explains Jason. A string of aggressive step fathers helped form an aggressive attitude in Jason. And while his childhood had its challenges, Jason praises his grandparents for the love and support they gave him. Jason was a talented multi-sport athlete, even at a young age. "My grandpa was at every game, every practice, no matter what sport. He was always there," recalls Jason. He was the super-star athlete in high school, exceling at soccer, baseball, basketball, and football. At the time, he was skated through classes, passing just enough to play on game day. Jason readily admits now that he chose to take the easier route instead of doing the work -- something he is teaching his kids NOT to do today. Jason wasn't concerned about getting his high school diploma, because he had a promised spot on the basketball team at a local junior college, where he would be able to play while getting an AA.
But Jason's plans for a college education and sports career ground to a screeching halt when he and his girlfriend got pregnant the summer before college. "When I found out that [she] was pregnant I dropped out of my scholarship to Junior College and began to work construction," explains Jason. By the time he was 21, they had 3 kids. "I went through what I call ‘the dark ages,’" says Jason. "I was struggling with violence, alcohol and hanging with the wrong people. I made a personal decision to get out [of that life] because my kids were more important. I saw friends dying and going to prison. I wanted something different than [my friends] and I didn’t want my kids falling into the same cycle." Jason and his wife divorced as he started to change his life.
"I tried to be a productive member of society," says Jason. He continued to work in construction as a heavy equipment operator, even supervising on job sites. "I moved up in the construction field pretty fast." But that career track soon ended too, when Jason seriously injured his ankle. "I was devastated," Jason recalls. Standing over 6' 5" tall and over 200 pounds, Jason is a big man. "My ankle was literally disintegrating, and that was life altering. I couldn’t work, and couldn’t walk. I had two surgeries in 3 years on my ankle that resulted in 7 screws." Unable to work, and once again drifting into a dark place emotionally, Jason moved to Spokane when a friend offered to let him sleep on his couch.
When Jason came to Goodwill, he was on the verge of living on the streets of Spokane. He had no job prospects, and his ankle and lack of education were huge barriers to work. He was referred to Goodwill when he went to DSHS to apply for food stamps. He connected with Goodwill's Housing and Esential Needs (HEN) program, which gave him the support he needed to stop couch surfing and get into a place of his own. HEN helped him with fuel cards, personal hygience and cleaning supplies for his apartment.
Jason also connected with Goodwill's Credentials to Careers program and the BFET program (Basic Food Education and Training program). Through Credentials to Careers, Jason took classes that helped him learn what he needed to do to complete his GED or get his high school diploma -- a task that seemed daunting as an adult student who had been out of school for more than 20 years. "They fixed the brakes on my vehicle so that I could get to school to work on my GED, and have transportation to work. With their help, I was able to increase my chances for success."
Jason was so driven to complete his GED. He got it done in less than 2 months. "I had two of my kids at GED graduation watch me walk the stage," says this proud father.
Jason secured a job with a local security company. They were so impressed that he was offered a non-entry level position and has since advanced in the company. He is signed up to attend Spokane Falls Community College in the fall to begin studies in Graphic Design. He wants to continue his education after he gets his AA, and hopefully launch his own Sports Design company some day.
"I want my kids to know that no matter what happens it’s never too late and you can always recover. When you fall down, you can get back up and do the right thing. I want to teach all my kids that it’s better to get things done," says Jason.