Madison Strategies Group (MSG) is proud to announce that our Career Development Coach, Tameka Reynolds, was awarded the Bonnie Potter Outstanding Frontline Staff Award at the New York City Employment & Training Coalition’s (NYCETC) 2017 Opportunity Awards!
Watch the video to learn more about Tameka’s story, or continue reading below!
Tameka, who immigrated to the US from Jamaica in September 2015, started her journey with Madison Strategies Group as a participant in the Career Directions program in November 2015. Her brother, Richard, had found out about the program through New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG), and Tameka was convinced to join after he received several job offers with MSG’s help.
During her training week, Tameka found MSG’s resume-building and elevator pitch exercises extremely helpful. “I had a 3-page CV and my elevator pitch was also very long, so [now-Director-of-Programs Alex Holt] helped me make them much more concise,” she reflects. An experienced entrepreneur who ran two entertainment businesses in her country for 12 years, Tameka also found it helpful to learn how hiring practices worked in the US, and gain new ideas of what her skills could transfer to. “Alex and [Director of Business Services] David [Weinholtz] recommended new ideas of things I never would have thought to apply to,” she says. In a new country and culture, she adds that getting to know more people and practice speaking in front of them really helped her build her confidence, which is crucial to succeeding in interviews.
At the end of her training week, Tameka applied and was selected to volunteer for MSG, where she worked one-on-one with re-entry candidates in our Career Connections program, coaching them on interview skills and helping them to complete job applications. While she volunteered, MSG referred her to multiple employer partners, and within one month of completing her training, she received four job offers, including one from MSG to be their new Program Assistant– Which she accepted in February 2016. By the end of that month, her drive and skills were already so evident that she was promoted to be a Career Development Coach within the same program she had volunteered for. “I was very excited by the opportunity,” she says. “Many of the candidates I’d be working with, they didn’t have anyone to believe in them, and I was excited to be that person, to be in the front row of someone’s journey. What’s greater than that?”
Since becoming a Career Development Coach, Tameka has drawn on her own transformation to help inspire change in her candidates. In addition to individual career coaching, Tameka recruits candidates on Rikers Island, supports job orders from employer partners, troubleshoots candidates’ job search strategies, and facilitates workshops. Most recently, she led a workshop focused on Cultural Competency where she utilized her own experience transitioning from Jamaica to the US to open candidates’ eyes to cultural norms and how we can effectively work with people of other backgrounds.
Tameka makes her mark on every participant she works with, and since her specialty has been in working with the re-entry population, she has the statistics to back it up: 90% of individuals Tameka worked with in 2016 didn’t return to prison over her first year of working with them, and candidates who were placed in employment achieved an average starting wage of over $13.50/hour, an incredible feat, as many had been out of work for several years and were facing serious barriers to employment. Here is an email from one of Tameka’s candidates:
“Ms. Reynolds, I want to give you a special thank you. I honestly did not trust the program. When I met you at Rikers, I was living the worst moment in my life. I lost faith in the justice system. I lost two good jobs, I had for around 13 years. I went from a citizen, to an abused number in the Criminal Justice system. Something about your smile was sincere and I said to myself, let me give this program a chance. I’m glad I did. Thank you for helping me find a decent job, that is giving me a chance. Thank you for keeping your promise.” (January 2017)
“My goal is to do more, reach more, and impact more lives,” Tameka says. “And the best way to do that is to keep learning.”
The NYCETC Bonnie Potter Award recognizes staff who are doing outstanding, innovative work on the front lines of NYC workforce development organizations; 2 other MSG staff members and an MSG participant were also honored with similar awards last year. Tameka received her award at the NYCETC Opportunity Awards ceremony on November 16, with her mother, son, and brother in attendance. The entire MSG team is proud of Tameka for the strides she has made in her personal journey, as well as grateful for the impact she makes on each team member and candidate every day.
Madison Strategies is honored to work alongside inspiring candidates and staff like Tameka each day. To support our candidates in their efforts to transform their lives, click here to make a donation today.