A Second Chance at a Successful Future


Local organization offers job training and advocacy to incarcerated, recovering and at-risk San Diegans

By Christina Orlovsky Page

On a sunny Friday afternoon in November, the sky over southeast San Diego wasn’t the only thing that was bright and blue. Blue was the color of the caps and gowns worn by 11 graduates and bright was their future. Each member of Class 194 stepped up to the podium to speak. At the Encanto office of Second Chance, a San Diego nonprofit that aims to reduce recidivism, unemployment and homelessness in formerly incarcerated and addicted individuals through a four-week job-readiness program, stories were shared, apology letters were read, and promises were made. Promises to fulfill dreams only made possible through their commitment to change and through the support of those in the room.   

“I’m here to tell you that I can accomplish so much more than just getting out of prison,” said one graduate, as he thanked Second Chance for opening the door to his future. “This is very special, considering I’ve never had a graduation ceremony before,” said another, as she thanked her husband for standing by her, despite her mistakes, and Second Chance for teaching her that she had something to contribute. 

Since 1993, Second Chance has opened its doors to youth and adults in the criminal justice system. 80 percent of Second Chance’s clients have been incarcerated and many have never held a job. After completing the organization’s program, 75 percent of graduates find employment within six months; two years later, 70 percent are still employed. 

“We are very good at this,” says Trisha Gooch, CRFE, Vice President of Advancement and External Affairs for Second Chance. “One thing that makes us different from other job-readiness programs is that all of our trainers are graduates of the program, so they have the understanding of what the students are going through. Some have also brought themselves back from incarceration and addiction. That authenticity is what makes
us unique.”

Second Chance graduates 150-200 adults each year and serves a total of roughly 1,500 through all of its programs, which include nine sober-living residences, youthful offender rehabilitation, and a youth garden program, which trains juvenile offenders in the processes of planting, growing and harvesting organic vegetables to sell in local farmers markets. 

“Our goal with our youth programs is to stop them from continuing on a path to adult prison,” Gooch says. “We teach youth and adults to be self-sufficient in order to break the cycle of incarceration and poverty.”    

Second Chance relies on corporate sponsorships and individual donations, including the $599 Club, which provides one month of housing, food and transportation to a Second Chance client. For more information, visit secondchanceprogram.org.

“We teach youth and adults to be self-sufficient in order to break the cycle of incarceration and poverty.”