By Amanda Cassidy-Trejo, Reentry Roundtable Advocacy Fellow
Over the past 2 years, I have been able to be a part of the RAP and Roundtable community. I came into my fellowship role not having a clear understanding of this coalition and the work it does to serve the community I get to be a part of. I had not been home very long and was just finding my footing in society and in my recovery. I could not have imagined the gifts that would come from this journey.
As I began my fellowship, I learned more about each organization and began taking a role as the facilitator of RAP. I have been able to take on planning events such as RAP Meets which brought us all together over food, while we learned about the importance of community organizing with TAJ and watched a movie together. As a result of building relationships in the community, I began to build trust and respect from those I admired and got to work with. Inviting them into spaces that so desperately needed their voice to be heard. Community members with lived experience in the reentry process came to be a part of the strategic planning process and were invaluable in shaping the work plan for the next 5 years.
I think my favorite part of the work has been getting to envision all the things RAP could be and how to serve the community to its fullest capacity. While I had a lot of lofty ideas the community spoke loud and clear and working together we have built out a solid framework for the next fellow. Providing them with a guide, an essential tool I was not given, in order for them to begin their journey on a successful path. It took a lot of work and conversation but taking this time has given us all a chance to get to know each other better and what we value so that we can build a stronger community.
My final event as the Fellow was the Second Chance Symposium. Taking suggestions from the RAP community we brought together valuable resources such as housing, education & training, career opportunities, healthcare and tech access. We learned what these resources were and how to access them. We then spent some time networking over lunch.
As I reflect back on the past 2 years I am humbled and grateful at all of the relationships I have been given and the tools I have learned that will help me continue my growth both personally and professionally. Getting to be a part of this work has truly transformed my life. We are making a difference in our communities and I am excited to continue watching it grow.