Good afternoon, my name is Veronica Adwell. I graduated from the HOPE for Prisoners workshop in June of 2016. It has been a little more than two years since I was sitting in my graduation ceremony just like you are today. The past couple years of my life has been full of ups and downs, challenges, and great moments, but I am here today to share my story of HOPE.
I was born and raised in Orange County, CA. My parents divorced when I was very young after I had suffered from physical abuse and as a teenager, my mom and stepdad moved us to Las Vegas for better paying job opportunities. I became pregnant at the young age of 19 and married into a relationship that was unhealthy and a bad situation became increasingly worse. I eventually began using crystal meth to escape what had become my reality. My first arrest came at the age of 24. After my release from jail, my “escape” became a full-blown addiction. I ended my relationship with my daughter’s father and the focus of my life centered around how to fuel my addiction.
My first felony conviction was for theft after I was caught cashing fraudulent payroll checks. I was given probation which I successfully completed. Even after completing my probation period, I was not ready to turn my life around and continued down a path of drugs and destruction. My second and third felony convictions were for burglary — this is how I was feeding my drug and gambling addictions. Still making the same poor decisions, I received a fourth felony for possession of a credit card. Again, I was given probation, but this time it was revoked because I stole a car. I stole the car so that I would have someplace warm to sleep because at this point in my life I had literally lost everything.
I went back to prison, this time for 2 years. Prior to my release, I was charged with an additional felony for a previous incident. After my release, I checked in with my Parole Officer, Officer Carter. She ordered me to check in at HOPE for Prisoners and complete the program. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I did what she asked and found myself attending the week-long workshop at HOPE. HOPE for Prisoners gave me the tools I needed to get back to the real me. It instilled in me the principle that no matter what, giving up is not an option. I made the decision to finally use my stubbornness and determination for something good. It was good to be surrounded by people who have been through similar struggles who have made the choice to transform their lives in spite of all of the challenges that we face.
I found myself gaining employment only to lose it because of my criminal history. I don’t want to tell you that my path was easy, because it wasn’t. I struggled and daily had to choose to continue to do the right thing. I leaned on my family at HOPE for Prisoners and did not become discouraged. I knew that by using the tools given to me through this program, through Jon and his amazing team, I was going to make it and be even stronger than before. And I did! Through HOPE and a connection with one of their partner employers, last November I landed a job that I absolutely LOVE! I have been with Keolis Transit for almost two years now and couldn’t be happier. I’m focusing on things that will help build a future for my daughter and I, such as rebuilding my credit and teaching her the importance of working hard and saving and financial responsibility. My family and I couldn’t be better. I no longer live with my parents. I’ve had an apartment now for almost a year. My daughter lives with me full time. A couple months ago I bought a brand new 2017 car off the lot. I’m sure everyone’s heard of AAA, the roadside assistance people. Well one tool that I use is a personal AAA policy that I created. The A’s stand for attitude, appreciation and attendance…in that order. With the right attitude, you can and will appreciate everything, even if it’s a struggle. And attendance because everywhere you go, there you are so you might as well have the right attitude and appreciate right where you are. When it comes to work, I give it all I’ve got. There have been days that I didn’t want to go to work because I was dog tired. But there hasn’t been a single day that I didn’t want to go to work because I don’t like or appreciate my job. Again, AAA policy. Sometime in the near future I plan on looking into beginning courses to become a certified mechanic so that I can completely bring my vivid vision to fruition. I’d also like to mention how good it feels to look at my phone when it rings and see Jon Ponders name because he’s calling to tell me how proud he is of me for my accomplishments.
I told you the details of my past because I want to encourage you that if someone like me, with 5 felonies and a history of drug abuse can be sober, healthy, mending relationships, and full-time employed in a job that I genuinely enjoy, you can do it too!
I want to leave you with a question to “ponder’…. One Day or Day One? Make today Day One of a life that up until this point you have only dreamed of living. I made the day that I graduated Day One and I am no longer just surviving. I am finally living and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in this world!