ABOUT US

fighting recidivism

how we started

Changing perceptions

Changing Perceptions was conceived by Will Avila, a returning citizen who was sentenced to adult-incarceration at the age of 16 years, and spent 10 years in-and-out of prison, struggling to transition back into the community.

Will, like so many other returning citizens, experienced first-hand the challenges—and rejections—that came with transitioning back into society and the workforce. Finally, in 2014 he decided to start a for-profit business, Clean Decisions (commercial kitchen cleaning and general labor services.)

Will dreamt of helping employ returning citizens—people like him—who longed for an opportunity to prove to society they are worth investing in.

Clean Decisions has successfully provided full- and part-time employment to over 30 people, and they have a 100% anti-recidivism rate. However, in addition to employment, what the year highlighted was the desperate need for therapeutic and supportive services. Returning citizens not only struggle to find employment, but they also need training and counseling to help them successfully transition back into contributing members of society.

Thus emerged Changing Perceptions.

The Nuts and Bolts

what we do

Changing Perceptions is a non-profit organization that supports previously incarcerated citizens as they re-enter communities throughout the Washington, DC metropolitan area. Our organizational model is client-centered, proven effective and successful, and focused on initiating and expanding public-private partnerships for the development and implementation of strategies that address barriers to reentry.

Each participant at Changing Perceptions receives individualized services and is supported in a family-like atmosphere which fosters care, growth, and inspires positive expectations.

Changing Perceptions is creating innovative solutions to the most significant barrier for many re-entrants: housing. Our organization currently uses one house that serves as a central location for our current re-entrants.  Yet, this location is more than just a residence; it is a support network that itself is a critical component of reducing recidivism. Based on its overwhelming success, we are currently working to partner with multiple housing developers.

 Changing Perceptions also offers workforce development training and education courses, in conjunction with civic-minded, local businesses who have partnered with us. Additionally, we offer entrepreneurial training in industries with the most demonstrable potential to recover, grow, and hire in the post-global pandemic era.

SUPPORT OUR EFFORTS TO REDUCE RECIDIVISM

our team

staff

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Monte Pollard is the Executive Director at Changing Perceptions, where he provides oversight and leadership of the organization’s staff and programs. He joined Changing Perceptions in 2020 as a director of reentry services to successfully manage the day-to-day operations and serve as the first point of contact for the organization. Before Changing Perceptions, he was the program manager at Collaborative Solutions for Communities and highly recognized for serving as an outreach specialist at the Mayor’s Office on Returning Citizen Affairs. Monte’s journey from prison to society has been covered by the media, including The Washington Post, The University of the District of Columbia’s Legacy Magazine, and Georgetown University Prison and Justice Initiative documentary. Monte’s goal is to obtain his bachelor’s degree in Administrative Justice and a Master’s in Public Administration. At present, Monte is a culinary professional at Auguste Escoffier, where he plans to launch a catering business with a combination of American-Asian cuisine.

DIRECTOR OF RE-ENTRY SERVICES

After 48 months of incarceration, Andrew Smith El returned to our community in 2007. Through Project Empowerment (A government agency that helps poverty-stricken individuals). Andrew received job and life skills training and completed an internship with a local organization that deescalates intense neighborhood conflict, Peaceoholics. Andrew was hired as a Life Coach and Outreach Specialist. Andrew was assigned to work with the at-risk youth at Anacostia High school, where he built strong relationships with children from communities throughout wards seven and eight. Andrew became the go-to person of his team and the lead life skills facilitator that taught life skills courses to the incarcerated youth at Oakhill youth detention facility. Andrew has served the District of Columbia in numerous roles, from a reentry case manager, family support worker, violence interrupter specialist, and supervisor.  Andrew has experience working in the government and nonprofit, servicing all eight wards. Andrew has been recognized and awarded by the government and nonprofit organizations for his unwavering support that inspires others to succeed.

SOCIAL WORKER

helping to guide

what our mentors do

Changing Perceptions employs a Mentor-Mentee relationship-oriented platform that offers support and guidance for new re-entrants.

Every peer mentor has personally and previously experienced incarceration – and the challenges associated with navigating re-entry into their communities. They are living examples of successful reintegration, provide one-to-one mentorship with participants, and offer life stabilizing encouragement on a consistent basis.

Our peer mentors help participants set and reach personal, physical, mental health, financial and professional goals. Peer mentors work hand-in-hand with Changing Perceptions leadership, engage appropriately with external agencies and services, and help set longer-term “changemaker” goals for their mentees.

our team

mentors

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MENTOR

Monte Pollard is the Executive Director at Changing Perceptions, where he provides oversight and leadership of the organization’s staff and programs. He joined Changing Perceptions in 2020 as a director of reentry services to successfully manage the day-to-day operations and serve as the first point of contact for the organization. Before Changing Perceptions, he was the program manager at Collaborative Solutions for Communities and highly recognized for serving as an outreach specialist at the Mayor’s Office on Returning Citizen Affairs. Monte’s journey from prison to society has been covered by the media, including The Washington Post, The University of the District of Columbia’s Legacy Magazine, and Georgetown University Prison and Justice Initiative documentary. Monte’s goal is to obtain his bachelor’s degree in Administrative Justice and a Master’s in Public Administration. At present, Monte is a culinary professional at Auguste Escoffier, where he plans to launch a catering business with a combination of American-Asian cuisine.

Andrew

MENTOR

After 48 months of incarceration, Andrew Smith El returned to our community in 2007. Through Project Empowerment (A government agency that helps poverty-stricken individuals). Andrew received job and life skills training and completed an internship with a local organization that deescalates intense neighborhood conflict, Peaceoholics. Andrew was hired as a Life Coach and Outreach Specialist. Andrew was assigned to work with the at-risk youth at Anacostia High school, where he built strong relationships with children from communities throughout wards seven and eight. Andrew became the go-to person of his team and the lead life skills facilitator that taught life skills courses to the incarcerated youth at Oakhill youth detention facility. Andrew has served the District of Columbia in numerous roles, from a reentry case manager, family support worker, violence interrupter specialist, and supervisor.  Andrew has experience working in the government and nonprofit, servicing all eight wards. Andrew has been recognized and awarded by the government and nonprofit organizations for his unwavering support that inspires others to succeed.

changing_perceptions_dc_shoot_10-1-20_39026

MENTOR

As a dedicated mentor at Changing Perceptions, Troy has advocated for organizations including The Innocence Project, The Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, and Hope and Healing. As a young adult, he worked for Operating Services Assisting Youth, chaperoning young students on field trips and planning sports activities. He was a radiology technician aide for a year at George Washington Hospital. Troy graduated from Georgetown’s Pivot Program, where he learned leadership, business, and entrepreneurial skills. Receiving an internship with the Reentry Action Network and is presently an Associate at the Justice Policy Institute. Troy provides substantive support to advocacy and policy work, including playing a leadership role supporting JPI’s ongoing work in Washington, DC.

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MENTOR

James, a native Washingtonian, was released in 2020 after spending more than 24 years incarcerated for an offense he was convicted of as a child. Upon release, James immediately began sowing into his community while working on issues to help marginalized and disenfranchised. James currently serves as a proud member of the Incarcerated Children Advocacy Network (ICAN), a Peer Mentor for Changing Perceptions, and an Advisory Council member for Neighbors For Justice. In the latter role, James currently leads research and policy talks on the challenges and barriers related to access and affordability for returning citizens seeking housing in the Washington, DC area. James works to educate lawmakers, community members, and stakeholders on the supports needed for those returning home to the D.C. community after serving long-term prison sentences and inform them of the realities faced by those housed at D.C. jail and throughout the BOP prison system. James also enjoys mentoring youth through the Fresh Start Project, which allows him to go inside juvenile facilities and share his story with young people in the system.

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