This month’s theme is one that is near and dear to my heart. In another life, I was a teacher, and my first job was at a Level 6 correctional facility for juvenile males. Every one of my students had experienced trauma on some level, from poverty to domestic and community violence. Mental health resources were scarce at the time; their academic skills were often well below grade level. How could it be surprising that many of them re-offended, violated their parole, or in some other way ended up incarcerated again? The obstacles to success are enormous.
But some people do make it out and break the cycle. They find something to live for, like Jennifer Burke on page 11, who found serenity in Soul Essentials of Ocala, Tyler Friend (page 14) fell into an industry that he loves and has been advancing up the ladder, while Harry Spencer (page 16) started his own business. It takes incredible courage to share personal stories, especially stories like these, because societal judgment is intense. We often punish ex-offenders for a lifetime, barring them from jobs and living spaces. I am so grateful they were willing to open up and put a human face on the issue of criminal justice. Everyone deserves a fresh start.
Speaking of fresh starts, we talked to Jay Marty Hernandez (page 8), who lost his hearing at 13 years old and is now a successful entrepreneur and up-and-coming podcaster. And on page 31, you can read about Orlando and Stacey León; the former custom cake bakeshop owners relocated from New York City during the pandemic and started Baked by Small Batch.
We know that good mental health is key to making a fresh start, so our feature is Brandy Forman, LCSW and Sandi Cornell, LMHC of Dignity Counseling (page 26), who provide trauma-informed care and work to build a healthy, supportive community.
No community is complete without its artists. Head on over to our Artist Q&A section (page 37) and then read about the artist whose sculpture stands in front of the Appleton Museum of Art.
We believe that everyone has a story, and even the most marginalized deserve to be able to tell theirs and be heard. I think that is the only way we will recognize our shared humanity and give a chance at a fresh start to someone we might have otherwise dismissed. I hope that these stories leave you with something to think about and maybe inspire you to reach out a helping hand.
All My Best, Jodi Anderson, Senior Copy Editor