Take a moment to #turnthepage and read the tear-jerking stories of our clients, donors, volunteers and partners about the reasons they became a part of the T.O.R.I. program and the life-changing impact the Texas Offenders Reentry Initiative has had on their lives.
“Never, in my wildest dreams, did I ever think I would be a college graduate.”
Vera spent a cumulative 20 years incarcerated for a series of drug-related charges. She better understands today that these mistakes were a byproduct of attempting to treat the trauma that she faced as a child. Even though this understanding came at a high cost, it also provided direction. Vera spent the final portion of her incarceration in a Substance Abuse Felony Punishment Facility or SAFPF.
At the SAFPF, Vera attended a women’s empowerment group each week. However, she was worried that she might return in mere months if she didn’t find a support system after being released. Therefore, the leader of the group told her about the TORI program. She said that TORI provides male and female support groups for returning citizens and 12 months of weekly one-on-one meetings with a dedicated case manager to help her achieve her goals and stay out of prison.
Once released from SAFPF, Vera traveled to Dallas to join the TORI program. During her needs assessment, her TORI case manager determined that her first step toward obtaining stability was to sign up for counseling. Therefore, her case manager connected her with a counselor to discuss the trauma from her past. “After attending counseling sessions, I asked my counselor about her job and how she got started. That was when I realized that healing myself, then others like me, would be my calling.” Vera said emotionally.
After realizing she wanted to become a counselor, Vera discussed her career goals with her TORI case manager. “First, they connected me with Dallas College. That big scary world of education I always felt locked out of was right before me, and I had a guide in TORI. My case manager helped me find scholarships, financial aid, and a free laptop for my classes. She was also my biggest cheerleader and encouraged me to stay on track when I wanted to give up.” Vera reflects with a smile.
“That was just a little over two years ago. In May, I graduated from Dallas College with my associate degree, and my TORI case manager was there to cheer for me as I crossed the stage. Shortly after graduation, I received an acceptance letter from the University of North Texas. I plan to obtain my bachelor’s degree and become a Licensed Professional Counselor shortly after I graduate. I lost most of my family after my time in and out of incarceration. Therefore, I can’t imagine where I would be without all of TORI’s support. They also stopped their day and held a celebration call on Zoom with all their staff to celebrate with me every time I completed a milestone. I could never repay them for all they have done for me, but as a counselor, I plan to pay it forward and help others how they have helped me.” Vera said with tears in her eyes.
Vera began her journey at UNT in January of 2024. She laments, “Whenever I think of giving up, my case manager and TORI family keep me going. I’ve come far from that jail cell and have much to go. I’ve found my purpose, though. For once, I can say that I am truly happy. Beyond happy, in fact. I’ve finally received my chance to give back to the world, and I will never let this opportunity go to waste again. Especially with the support and guidance of my new TORI family.”
At TORI, returning citizens receive 12 months of wraparound services, a support system and a dedicated case manager because of donors like you!