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.
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
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. He was highly recognized for serving as an outreach specialist at the Mayor’s Office on Returning Citizen Affairs. Throughout his career, Monte has dedicated his energy and time to delivering high-quality programs and leveraging data to drive continuous learning and program improvement. He has championed providing operational and strategic leadership and managing financial strategies and is well-versed in developing and implementing solid partnerships to boost engagement and positively affect the community. The media covered Monte’s journey from prison to society, including The Washington Post, The University of the District of Columbia’s Legacy Magazine, and the Georgetown University Prison and Justice Initiative documentary. Monte earned a culinary degree at Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts, where he plans to open a catering business. In addition, Monte received a certificate in business and entrepreneurship, including a certificate in nonprofit management from Georgetown University, to help assist with his entrepreneurship 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 serves as the Reentry Case Manager at Changing Perceptions. Her primary duty within the organization is to complete participant intake assessments, case planning and creation, assign mentor and mentee best matching, and provide internal and external referrals. Originally from the Dominican Republic. She was raised in Washington, DC. Ms. Acosta has been helping underserved and unserved communities for almost 11 years and counting. An internship during Ms. Acosta’s senior year in college quickly allowed her to discover her passion for helping others by using Solution-Focus Brief Therapy methods. Ms. Acosta gained certification to facilitate Thinking for a Change training and coordinated Family Group Conferences. Overall, this intense training helped her build her case management skills. Ms. Acosta has worked with Families with truant children to help them overcome barriers. Leticia connects individuals from all walks of life to social services to create a fair pathway to the middle class. Leticia earned her bachelor’s in criminal justice from Trinity Washington University.
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.