Angelo G.

Challenge Workforce Solutions is in its fiftieth year of creating pathways to employment for people with disabilities—but many don’t know that we help people overcome many other kinds of barriers as well.

A native of the Bronx, Angelo G. dropped out of high school and developed drug and alcohol addictions that led him to Rikers Island. In 2001, his brother convinced him to come to Ithaca, but he “came up here with the same mentality that [he] had in the City.” His addictions worsened, his rap sheet lengthened, and finally in 2014 he lost custody of his daughters.

This was his turning point. Angelo started attending twelve-step meetings, found a supportive church community, and came to Challenge.

Angelo met with Geno Tournour, DSS Programs Manager, and attended Job Club, a six-week program of intensive career exploration, job readiness training, and hands-on job search assistance. Says Geno, “With an extensive criminal background—all directly related to his addiction—and no high school diploma, Angelo’s barriers to employment were substantial.”

Despite these obstacles, Angelo landed a maintenance job at Texas Roadhouse and very soon thereafter was recruited by a manager at Five Guys Burgers and Fries. He has been working on the line for two years and was recently asked to apply for a management position. “Five Guys is all about teamwork,” says Angelo. “Everyone helps everyone.”

While Geno and Angelo continue to stay in close contact, Angelo is clearly on the path to self-sufficiency. For three years, he has been gainfully employed, clean and sober, and living with his fiancée and their daughters. And now, with an invitation from Family Treatment Court Judge John C. Rowley, he’s come full circle, serving as a mentor to young people struggling with addiction.

“I used to think that I was living,” Angelo says. “But now I really am living. And now I know it’s not all about me.”