"I see myself owning my own restaurant." Osborne Participant Shares His Journey from Prison to Employment

18 January 2018

Osborne participant Carlos Rodriguez recently shared his experience of meeting Osborne while incarcerated at Queensboro Correctional Facility and his journey to gaining employment with Osborne's Career Center Instructor Henry Guiden. Carlos (right) and Henry are pictured above with Carlos's certificate of completion of Project Renewal's culinary arts program. 

Henry: Tell me about your journey to Osborne.

Carlos: Growing up was hard. My mom had health problems and couldn’t work so we grew up on welfare and could barely eat. I tried to be the best I could for my mom. But I started following my older brother, who is in prison right now. I always wanted to be just like him. I started to get into gangs and selling drugs, and that eventually led to my incarceration. That’s not somewhere I wanted to be or the environment I ever saw myself in. My friends never visited or wrote me. So that showed me I needed to change my mindset when I came home.

I learned about Osborne my last three months at Queensboro Correctional Facility. One of Osborne’s counselors told me about the programs and all I could do to keep me on track. I enrolled in the Career Center and that’s where I met you. You’ve been where I’ve been. And seeing that you are successful, meant I could do it too.

Henry: I would always ask you all what you want to do and the only thing you ever said to me was “I want to make food.” After you completed Osborne’s program, I connected you with Project Renewal to do their culinary arts program.

Carlos: Yes, I did that program too and an internship for about three months, and graduated on November 30. I now have a job at a four-star restaurant.

Henry: On your graduation day, you told me that you would walk from the Bronx to Bowery and 2nd Street–three hours round trip– every day from June to November to get to your internship. You know that if you had just told someone earlier, we would have given you a MetroCard!

Carlos: It’s hard for me to ask for help. Even if I have to walk three or four hours, I’m going to do it. When I was young, I used to live in a shelter in the Bronx, and we would have to get up early in the morning to walk from the Bronx to Harlem to get to school. So I knew what I had to do. Walking was normal for me.

"Even if I have to walk three or four hours, I’m going to do it."

Henry: I’m really proud of Carlos because he has only been home from prison for a year. To be working full time and making the money he is now, it’s great to see this can happen to people when they want it bad enough. I didn’t do anything. He wanted it. I just gave him the tools to use and he used them.

What was the most helpful thing you learned at Osborne?

Carlos: Mostly interview skills– how I should present myself and how to answer the criminal background question.

Henry: Answering the criminal background question is crucial in an interview, but a lot of people cannot answer that question. When someone commits a crime, people try to make them seem like a piece of dirt. So you have to take control of your story and tell people who you are, even an employer. You’re not even the same man from when you first came to Osborne. You are smiling more, you have more of a glow, you’re more positive now. You had doubts when you came in, but now, you’re more confident.

Do you remember what we practiced in class for answering the conviction question?

"You have to take control of your story and tell people who you are."

Carlos: This is going to be hard, but I’ll try. “In 2010, I got into an altercation with someone and they were injured. As a result, I was arrested and convicted to 9 years. During my time in prison, I participated in anger regression therapy and I worked in a storehouse making and taking deliveries and in the kitchen as a cook. I did college prep courses. I was released after two and a half years because of good behavior. After my release, I enrolled in Osborne’s career development program.” And, I can’t remember the rest.

Henry: Well, your first mistake is you are supposed to say “I see you are offering me a conditional position.”

(Carlos laughs)

Henry: Where do you see yourself in five years?

Carlos: I see myself owning my own restaurant. Big or small, it will be mine. I would cook Spanish food since that’s what I grew up on. I want to cook food I want to cook. And hopefully I’ve mastered it the way it should be done. I love making a plate look nice and fancy. I love the different methods of plating. At my job, I learn something new every day.

My family always supported me and I push myself because of them. So I also want to be better for them and be able to financially provide for them. So we don’t have to worry.

"I see myself owning my own restaurant."

Henry: I would definitely eat at your restaurant. I can see that in five years you will find a business partner and will be moving up in the ranks of the food industry. You seem to be coming out of your shell and you have dedication and determination. Anytime someone wakes up at 4 am to walk three hours to work, that’s dedication.

Carlos: I also hope in five years, I’ll be off parole. I currently have 5 and a half years on parole, and I’m aiming for it to be less and to get my curfew pushed up so I can work longer.

Henry: If you keep it up, they’re going to see all the amazing things you’re doing. How many things have you completed that you are proud of?

Carlos: Not a lot.

Henry: But you’re proud of this?

Carlos: It’s my biggest accomplishment. And I got more to come.