how we started
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.
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.
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
Monte Pollard serves as the Executive Director at Changing Perceptions, where he provides responsibility for the organization’s staff and programs. His tenure at Changing Perceptions began in 2020, initially as the director of reentry services, overseeing day-to-day operations and serving as the primary point of contact for the organization. Prior to his current role, he held the position of program manager for violence intervention and prevention at Collaborative Solutions for Communities. Monte was widely recognized for his work as a community outreach specialist at the Mayor’s Office on Returning Citizen Affairs. Throughout his career, Monte has dedicated his efforts to delivering exceptional programs, utilizing data to promote continuous learning and program improvement. He has consistently provided operational and strategic leadership, implementing financial strategies, and forming strong partnerships to boost community engagement. Monte’s journey from prison to society has been widely covered by the media, including The Washington Post, The University of the District of Columbia’s Legacy Magazine, and the Georgetown University Prisons and Justice Initiative. Monte earned a culinary degree from the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts and planned to establish a catering business to provide second-chance hiring opportunities for formerly incarcerated individuals. He has also obtained a certificate in business and entrepreneurship and a certificate in nonprofit management from Georgetown University. Monte continues his education at Southern New Hampshire University to obtain his bachelor’s in business administration, centering on nonprofit management, supporting his entrepreneurial endeavors and day-to-day operations as a senior leader.
DIRECTOR OF RE-ENTRY SERVICES
Kendrick Jackson is the Director of Reentry Services at Changing Perceptions, where he serves as the first point of contact for future participants, community members, stakeholders, and future partnerships. In addition, Kendrick manages all the organizations’ reentry programs, including the Peer Mentorship Program and the Supportive Employment Program. Kendrick is also the Co-Founder and Director of Government and Community Relations for FutureFIRST. In his capacity, he focuses on being the bridge that connects the public sector and community stakeholders. Kendrick was the former Special Assistant to the Director of the Department of Employment Services (DOES). His focus areas are helping manage the Bureau of Strategy and Innovation. Before working at DOES, Kendrick was Executive Director of the DC My Brother’s Keeper program in the Executive Office of Mayor Muriel Bowser. His focus was to continue the mission given by the Obama Foundation to decrease barriers for young men and women of color. Kendrick is a trained Data Scientist and Mobile app developer. Kendrick attended Virginia Commonwealth University, majoring in Mass Communications and Broadcast Journalism
REENTRY CASE MANAGER
Leticia Acosta Is originally from the Dominican Republic. She was raised in Washington DC. Ms. Acosta has been working with helping individuals for almost 11 years. An internship during Ms. Acosta’s senior year in college quickly allowed her to discover her true passion in helping others. Working with others, she was able to enhance her customer service skills. Using Solution-Focus Brief Therapy and Thinking for a Change really assisted her in helping the youth change their lives. Ms. Acosta gained a certification to facilitate Thinking for a Change trainings and was able to facilitate her own groups and was able to coordinate Family Group Conferences. Overall these intense trainings helped her build her case management skills. Ms. Acosta has worked with Families with truant children to help them overcome their barriers. Working with troubled youth and adults in the community helped her surpass and understand who she was in order to assist her community members.
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.