Achievement: Past Failures Lead to New Opportunities (Class 20)

Straight-A Guide Job Training Program

Lesson #20: Achievement

Past Failures Lead to New Opportunities

Materials Required:

  • Classroom space
  • Sufficient number of chairs with writing surface
  • Blank sheets of paper for each participant

Introduce Lesson #20 (5 minutes):

  • What’s the best possible outcome for someone with a troubled past? I’ll offer the story of Shon as an example. He enrolled in the military after high school but soon learned that he wasn’t cut out for the life of a soldier. Without finishing his commitment, he returned to his community but couldn’t find a job. Drug use soon consumed him. Then Shon started robbing banks. The FBI caught up with him and when the court proceedings concluded, a federal judge sentenced Shon to 12 years in prison.  What’s the best possible outcome?

First steps (10 minutes):

  • Take roll of participants.
  • Facilitator opens discussion to gauge participant’s expectations about what a man with Shon’s background could achieve. He uses a board or takes notes to record the various suggestions that participants offer. Then Facilitator tells them the story of Shon Hopwood. From inside of a federal prison he educated himself on the law. After serving longer than a decade, he returned to college and earned an undergraduate degree. Then he received a full scholarship to law school. Then he became the clerk for a federal judge.

Goals and Objectives (5 minutes):

  • Facilitator aspires to help the class participants understand all that can happen for a man who sets the right plan in place, makes a full commitment, and then holds himself accountable. Such an individual can achieve far more than anyone would expect. Every man with a background of incarceration can build a life of meaning and relevance if only he knows how to celebrate the incremental achievements along the way.

Expected Learning Outcomes (5 minutes):

  • Facilitator expects participants to set a plan in place that will lead them to become the type of citizen that will bring their loved ones pride, honor, and joy.

Preliminary introduction (5 minutes):

  • Facilitator asks the group members to theorize on the precise steps that Shon would’ve taken to prepare him for each achievement. Those achievements included: 1) abstaining from drug use; 2) educating himself in the law; 3) finding a mentor; 4) finding resources for college; 5) graduating college; 6) persuading sponsors to fund him through law school; 7) persuading a law school to admit him; and 8) persuading a federal judge to hire him.

Direct Instruction (10 minutes):

  • Facilitator uses blackboard to show the incremental achievements along the way: Shon had to choose his associates carefully and disengage from criminal associates. That decision led to his being able to abstain from drug use and focus more on personal growth. As a consequence of that growth, Shon began to develop skills with reading, analyzing, and writing persuasive arguments. Incremental achievements led to his finding mentors from the legal profession to guide him. Those mentors advanced Shon as a candidate for further growth. The more people who believed in him, the more devoted he became to overcoming his past. Success brought more success. A university admitted him. Then he received funding. A law school admitted him and then judges believed in him. Rather than dwelling on the bad decisions of his past, Shon celebrated every incremental achievement so that he could become something more than anyone would’ve thought or expected to be possible for a man with his background.

Guided Practice (20 minutes):

  • Facilitator pass out a handout to everyone in the class.
  • Facilitator breaks class into small groups and asks the small groups to respond.
  • Facilitator calls upon one group spokesperson to reveal the incremental achievements each group identified.



Lesson #20: Past Failures Lead to New Opportunities 

Tom (a character who doesn’t really exist) was released from prison and is serving time on supervised release. His probation officer wants Tom to find a job, but Tom has not been successful. Each time Tom fills out a job application, the employer says that the company doesn’t hire people with felony records.

Tom comes to Straight-A Guide Staffing Solutions. He completes the community based job-training course. The Straight-A Guide Staffing Solutions organization succeeds in persuading Acme Builders to look beyond Tom’s prison record and consider him for employment. Acme Builders employs more than 300 people in various capacities.

Tom wakes up early and catches a bus to ensure he makes it to the interview on time. He wears clean clothes and presents himself in the best possible way. He uses all of the techniques that he learned through the Straight-A Guide Staffing Solutions course. The manager says that he is impressed with Tom’s responsibility and offers Tom employment at minimum wage. If Tom works hard, the manager says, he can learn the trade and advance himself. There are growth opportunities for an individual who demonstrates that he wants to be a part of the team and grow with the company.

Describe each of the incremental achievements that Tom should celebrate.