My name is Mario Taylor and nearly three years ago, I was sitting where you are right now, graduating from the HOPE for Prisoners workshop, ready to move away from my past and explore the future that lay ahead of me.
I was 13 years old when I moved back to Las Vegas to live with my father. My grandmother had been raising me in Texas and had instilled values and morals in me that I still lean on today. The home that I thought awaited me was unlike anything I could ever imagine. I found myself faced with adversity. My father and my mother were both abusing drugs which kind of forced my older brother to be the one to fend for the both of us. Before long, I was involved in a gang and the lifestyle that came along with it. At 15 years old, I found myself on my way to prison, sentenced as an adult to 20-90 years for second degree murder with use of a deadly weapon.
When I went to prison, I did not only lose my freedom. I lost my hope. I lost my youth. I thought I had lost my future, the rest of my life. After several years of feeling discouraged and defeated, I began to realize that I valued life and realized that maybe there was a purpose for me after all. I left the gang and made up my mind to not look back. I obtained my GED and high school diploma and immersed myself in every educational opportunity that incarceration had to offer. In 2006 I was granted a commutation of sentence by Governor Kenny Guinn. This was the beginning of the hope I once longed for. Before I was released from prison, one of the chaplains referred me to the HOPE for Prisoners program. When I got home, I came to HOPE and was able to enroll in the program through the Second Chances program through Workforce Connections.
During the HOPE for Prisoners workshop I gained some valuable tools that have helped me through the last several years. I can confidently put together a resume and present myself accordingly in a job interview. They also taught me how to tie my very first tie. HOPE for Prisoners gave me my first job at Airborne Veteran Services and never looked back. From there I moved to Shelby American where I was a welder and fiberglass tech. I then got a job at Findlay customs where I built customized cars. While at Findlay I was presented with the opportunity to maybe becoming an electrician if I can complete the schooling. I am now a 1B electrician apprentice who has finally found his career. I have also had an awesome support group my family and there is a very special someone who has always believed in me. She was my 9th grade English teacher and for some odd reason she saw in me what I couldn’t see in myself. Her name is Judy Brase we were rekindled through hope where she saw me in the paper for an article that I was a part of. I am extremely grateful for who she has been in my life, she has never stopped believing in me even after I found myself incarcerated for such a long period of time.
I have a strong belief in giving back. I have always been remorseful for the mistakes that I have made in my past, but I do not let my past define who I am today. I have an incredible job. I am employed as an electrician apprentice and I am attending school to obtain my journeyman’s license. I am engaged to the girl of my dreams, Heather Jahanbin, and we are planning a wedding for next October. How much greater can life get. I enjoy and smile every day for I have truly been granted grace and mercy, and I will never take for granted this second chance at life.
If I can offer any advice to those of you who are graduating today, it would be to see life through a new lens and enjoy that which you are not guaranteed. Stay connected with the program and surround yourself with like-minded people because we are a product of those who we surround ourselves with. See life in a positive light and always remember to smile!!! Thank you!!!