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For family members with a loved one who’s incarcerated, December can be an especially tough time of the year. Nearly half of adults in the USA have an immediate family member who has been incarcerated. That’s about 113 million people who have a close family member who has spent time behind bars.

We’re pleased to share this story of hope and new beginnings from Chanda, the wife of one of our EITs.

“The first time I heard about Defy Colorado was from my husband, Stephen. He called me one day from Colorado State Penitentiary (CSP) to let me know that he’d been accepted into Defy Colorado’s entrepreneurship program. The program empowers program participants (called Entrepreneurs in Training, or EITs) to plan for reentry, increase their well-being, gain skills to prepare for meaningful employment, learn the foundations of entrepreneurship and rebrand for their future. Stephen had seen firsthand the transformation that fellow EITs from previous cohorts had experienced, and he couldn’t wait to participate in the program himself.

Stephen has always had an entrepreneurial spirit. But before Defy Colorado, he wasn’t quite sure how to channel it. Once he joined the program, Stephen got to work on his plans to launch an environmentally-friendly cleaning service. The project helped bring Stephen and me closer together as we worked through ideas together over the phone. I assisted him with research, like investigating the cost of green cleaning products and the current rates for commercial cleaning, and it gave us something new and positive to focus on together.

There was a lot of hard work and homework for Stephen to get through during the nine-month program, but he stayed focused and his hard work paid off when it came time to graduate.

We all went to CSP to watch Stephen graduate from Defy Colorado’s program. I was joined by Stephen’s father and his partner, and his mother and sister also were on hand to help him celebrate his big day. We were all so proud when we saw that Stephen made it to the final round of the Business Pitch Competition (a Shark Tank-style pitch competition) and placed third. He won $300 to put towards his future business.

With Defy Colorado, Stephen found a path. He learned there are a lot of people who care about him—that he is more than ‘just a guy in green’—and that there are people who truly want him to succeed.

Defy Colorado really changed things for our family, and has brought us much closer together. Stephen has a new idea of who he is and where he is going. And his parents realize that he‘s on a good path and will do something great in the future. And in speaking and connecting with other EITs and their families and hearing their stories, it’s clear that we are not alone.

And while I’m waiting for Stephen to be released, I’m starting to volunteer for Defy Colorado—and I encourage everyone else to do the same! Defy Colorado’s hands-on approach and all the mentors are what make the program special. There are so many other facilities and so many additional individuals that can benefit from Defy. We must stay focused on growing what’s been started.”