Heart Foundation

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Three STEPS to Success, One Giant Leap For the Community

HEART, in partnership with the Latino Coalition, offers the STEPS (Steps To Employment Preparation) program to serve young adult offenders, ages 18 -24, and high school dropouts in the City of Buffalo. The goal of the program is to prepare individuals to enter the workforce and increase their long-term labor prospect.

Participants receive intensive case management including skill assessments, abilities and aptitude, the development of an individualized service plan, goal setting for educational gains, career planning and identification of barriers preventing youth from advancement. Following are just a few of the many STEPs success stories:

Applauded For Moving Forward  

Eighteen-year-old Carlo Hinds was referred to HEART last summer via Crossroads, our collaborative adolescent diversion program with Buffalo City Court Judge James A.W. McLeod.  Carlo was pulled over by the police in a car with a friend. They were searched and a small, illegal suspicious bag was found in Carlo's pocket. 

This was his first brush with the law, he had no prior offenses. Carlo went before Judge McLeod and was ordered to attend an array of HEART's supportive services, obtain employment and stay in school to get back on track.  Although sometimes overwhelmed, Carlo was open to all services provided and complied with all expectations. "I was embarrassed about what I did and couldn't change what I did," he keenly shared, "but I was determined to correct my mistakes."

As part of STEPs, Carlo participated in a Community Garden Service Project to learn how to garden, in addition to attending HEART's Financial Literacy program.  He also successfully went through an intensive Call Center Training at the Center for Transportation of Excellence and was hired as a call center representative.

Carlo is now currently enrolled in Niagara Community College and was a recipient of a Buffalo Urban League Scholarship. He also maintains part-time employment.

Judge McLeod applauded Carlo's efforts and encourages him to continue to move forward with his second chance at a self-sustaining, healthy life.  Carlo has been dependable and even offered to assist as a role model to other HEART participants when needed.  He is resourceful, self-sufficient spirit and on a progressive path.


HEART Caseworker Fills the Gap 

Pleas Starks graduated a year early from Burgard Vocational High School in June 2012 and pursued plans to further his education at Erie Community College. Like many other students, he experienced economic hardship unable to afford books for classes. He quickly became frustrated, discouraged and hopeless. After one short month, he dropped out.

Hopelessness soon turned into boredom with far too much counterproductive time on his hands. Pleas began to hang out on the streets with friends smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol—life became a party.  Subsequently, one night he was approached by police and arrested for weapons possession. Pleas was referred to HEART by the Hon. Judge James A. W. McLeod where he participated in a series of supportive services and STEPs.

Pleas is now working full-time at Cook Moving Company. Through attending HEART's Financial Literacy workshops, he now has plans to save a portion of his earnings so he can pay back money owed to Erie Community College.

Pleas exceptional behavior and commitment to change provided enough substance for the court to issue an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal (ACD) in the interest of justice with a view toward ultimate dismissal of the charge.

Upon completion, his plans are to enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces as a Marine and attend college for business.

Pleas attributes his success to "my HEART caseworker who always stays on me," he affirms. "She is always making sure I'm where I need to be. All the workshops I'm in and meetings with her, fill my time. She helped me with my resume so I looked good on paper and I was able to get a job. The Financial Literacy workshop made me think to save my money so I can pay back school because I really want to go back."

A Driving Force  

Shelin Truitt has taken great strides to turn his life around. He came to HEART in July 2013 after hearing about the opportunities offered word-of-mouth. Shelin was very open and honest stating he had several encounters with law enforcement in his youth but had been making conscious efforts to create a better future. "I want to live differently," he declared, "I want better for my life."

Upon entering the program he was given information about the expectations, as well as the benefits. Shelin was unwavering in stating his goal was to obtain his Commercial Driver's License (CDL). He expressed his desire to ultimately drive trucks, even cross-country.

His case manager attempted to explore alternate possibilities for his future just in case the CDL was not an option due to background barriers. From the beginning he adamantly stated "CDL is the only thing I want to do, I won't look at any other trainings."

Shelin was consistent with his appointments and attendance as he awaited the start of the CDL training at the Center for Transportation Excellence. He also attended the Financial Literacy Workshop to assist in managing his money once he obtained employment. Shelin was also very helpful in the gardening service activity where participants cleaned and pruned a community garden. "I live right down the street and never noticed this garden," he said, "it feels good to give back to my community. I'll be less likely to let anyone litter now that I helped clean it up."

Once in the CDL training, Shelin demonstrated his dedication towards achieving his goal through his attentiveness and studying hard. Shelin successfully completed the training, as well as passing the test to receive his CDL.

His swift, successful work has become model to other participants who want to complete the course as quickly Shelin.  Not only did he complete his licensure but he also used this persistence in seeking employment so that he may begin acquiring experiential hours to obtain his dream goal of driving trucks.

Shelin truly demonstrates how determination and a solid plan leads to accomplishing your goals. He is now successfully working at CTE as a CDL driver and working on adding more.

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