Watch Tommy’s story here.
At the age of 13, Tommy Rodriguez began to use drugs and made several other poor choices that led to numerous prison stays. Rodriguez admits that he felt hopeless; he did not care about his life or anyone else’s. He believed prison life was the only life for him and there was no way he could exist on the outside. This sense of hopelessness fueled his destructive behavior which led him back to prison each time he was released.
Rodriguez missed his mother’s golden years and he missed watching his two children grow up because of this revolving door of incarceration,. He also never had a job. Tired of this destructive cycle, he decided it was time for a new life. In 2012, Rodriguez qualified for and enrolled in Goodwill Southern California’s StarWORKS, a court approved job readiness program that serves ex-offenders.
Initially Rodriguez was hesitant to participate in the StarWORKS program, stating, “I’d try this out and if it didn’t work I’d just go back to prison,” a life-style that he was accustomed to. Upon hearing this, his counselor encouraged him to try the program and give it his all. Rodriguez returned the next day, and every day after. Through StarWORKS he attended job readiness workshops, professional development trainings, and gained paid work experience.
Rodriguez is now employed as a Technician with the Goodwill Southern California Facilities department where he exceeds the expectations of every assignment given to him. When Rodriguez was hired, he was quiet and soft-spoken but very eager to learn and take on new challenges. His new attitude and outlook on life have led him to become a productive and valued member of the team and everyone appreciates him. His manager says, “He has brought a positive and inspiring presence to the department. Simply put, he rocks!”
In addition to Rodriguez’s commitment to Goodwill Southern California, he is a full time student at the University of Phoenix where he is pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services. His long-term goal is to become a counselor. Rodriguez has recently begun to restore his relationship with his children and the rest of his family. He is thankful for the second chance Goodwill has offered him and has a new found desire to connect to his community through employment. He now believes, “this is the life I owe to myself.” Tommy Rodriguez is a powerful example of a life transformed through the power of work and we are very proud to recognize him as our Los Angeles Achiever of the Year and congratulate him on his hard work, dedication and remarkable success.