'Jobs for Life' program helps inmates find employment after jail

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Michael Reading has been wearing jailhouse scrubs at the South County Jail in Polk County since November when he was arrested on a drug charge. But on Thursday night, he traded them in for much fancier clothes.

“I probably got my GED in 1994. No graduation, so I am excited,” he told FOX 13. “I have never worn a cap and gown before.”

Reading is a member of the first graduating class of “Jobs for Life” at the South County Jail.

The program teaches participants how to write a resume, present themselves professionally and interview to make the best impression possible. 

Reading said it also drives home a message.

“You’re a good man, stop beating yourself up, and don’t worry about the road blocks,” he explained. “We’ll overcome them.”

The national program, which is spiritually based, uses mentors, called "champions," to coach students.

CEOs, real estate professionals, store managers and pastors have all volunteered to become champions.

Tom Morgan, a counselor in the program, said it's amazing to watch when a light goes off in the participants' heads.

“It is great for them to look at the success story and say, 'I can do that,'” Morgan said.

The Polk County Jail is planning on running the course again at the end of the summer.