Juwainor West was released from prison 12 years ago.
Today, she works for the Goodwill career center in Lubbock as the employment development coordinator. She's also a graduate student and said she's a different person with a different perspective on life, given a second chance by the career center.
"In my indiscretions from the past, I did get pretty low," West said. "It was not pretty, and the way that I got out of it is not wanting to be in that situation again."
Elaina Albarez works at the center and said their partnership with the United Way began last July. It's been instrumental in providing funding for job-related programs to their clients.
"We do one-on-one training, and computer class training," Albarez said. " We do recorded mock interviews and we give that information back to the student and we let them see body language, lack of eye coordination, all of those kinds of things that are very important and so sit with people and give them the one-on-one attention that they need."
West teaches a class titled 'Connect to Success', that teaches those same values to others. Through the program, she teaches inmates at the Lubbock County jail life skills like making better choices and problem solving.
Her position through Goodwill allows her to assist those who have barriers, other than criminal backgrounds.
"Barriers can be anything. A single mother could be a barrier to employment. A mental handicap, a physical handicap. There are so many different types of barriers and when you go out and look for employment and you have these barriers preventing you, it tears the spirit down," West said. " And, what we are about here is lifting, building and encouraging."
She said the program gave her a fresh start and can for others looking to lead a different lifestyle, or start a different career.
" This endeavor that I have been on has not been easy," West said. "It has been met with a lot of challenges, a lot of ups and a lot of downs, but the main thing I can say is you never quit."
West said as she continues her education her loyalty and passion will always reside with the United Way and Goodwill.
She plans on releasing a book she co-wrote with her best friend, Shaliana, later this year. The book is titled 'From Prison to Ph.D'.
The United Way works to address the needs today and the issues of tomorrow. To volunteer or for any questions, call (806) 747-2711.
You can donate during this week of caring by going to the United Way's website at www.liveunitedlubbock.org