PERSEVERE,  PREVAIL, & FINALLY… PROSPER!

When given the opportunity, the human spirit can rise above unthinkable hardships and challenges. These stories illustrate how lives can be turned around, and families can be restored. We are honored and humbled to be a part of these remarkable journeys.

MARK CLARK

My son received the Kawani’s B.U.G award in school and this time I was able to be present to support and honor him. It’s like a miracle that I know wouldn’t be a reality if it wasn’t for Persevere and Banyan Labs. Being there for my son is a dream come true. I couldn’t be more grateful for the second chance I’ve been given.

MARK'S STORY

My name is Mark Clark, and I am the Business Development Director for Banyan Labs. I was hired by Banyan Labs after being released from prison October 28th, 2021.

My 4.5-year sentence was, as you can imagine, one of the hardest and most painful experiences I have endured. In the beginning of my sentence (and perhaps even before being arrested), I had officially given up on life. I had checked out. I no longer believed in, or valued, myself. After a few months went by, I woke up one morning to a slip that requested me to be present at a meeting in our prison's town hall. On the top right of the slip there was a word in large bold lettering: "PERSEVERE." It was an ad about Persevere's web development program, and at that point I was desperately in need of something to talk me off the ledge I was on.

I applied and was accepted into the Program. I had no idea how much this experience would impact my life. I began coding and started feeling like I was actually doing something of value with my time. I now had a goal, I had a plan, I had something that I could be proud of. More importantly, I was able to show the family that I had let down, that I was making an effort to change my life and make up for the mistakes I have made.

I graduated from the Coding program, I became a teacher's aide for the same coding program during my final year - and when I was released, I was given the opportunity to work with Banyan Labs. I now spend my time building partnerships with companies who will give second chances to our Web and Software developers. I am able to share my story and help others coming from a similar painful path. I couldn't be more grateful for the teams that contributed to saving my life and helping me redeem myself. Every day is like a dream, and I catch myself often teary eyed from the life-changing moments I have experienced and the kindness I have been shown. I wouldn't change a single spec of my life and my experiences.

I know if it weren't for Banyan Labs and Persevere, there is a strong chance I would be back in the streets abusing drugs, back in prison, or worse... This reality remains close to me every day and it is like a miracle. I cannot thank Persevere and Banyan Labs enough. I am truly blessed.

DAVID DITTO

Since my release from prison, my career has progressed exactly how the people at Persevere said it would.

DAVID'S STORY

Persevere radically changed my life. Years ago, as a person struggling with addiction, my thoughts of the future were rather bleak. I was serving a multi-year prison sentence for drug-related charges, and I had grown to accept that I wouldn’t achieve the level of success that I saw others achieve. Once I began to get sober, and subsequently entered the Persevere coding program, my thoughts regarding the future started to shift. I noticed that success wasn’t something reserved for other people—it could be mine.

I started my journey with Persevere & Banyan Labs as one of their first students in prison.

As soon as I started learning coding, I could tell this is what I was supposed to do. I was surrounded by a group of individuals, a family, that wanted me to succeed even more than I did at times. That support, combined with the technical skills they gave me, revolutionized my life. I know now that software development is my calling, and it was Persevere that gave me the opportunity to say that. To know that I am good at something for the first time in my life.

I am currently employed full-time as a software developer at a tech company called Vant4ge. I work on a team with developers from a world-wide employment website to create a platform for managing offshore teams. Every day, my technical and soft skills increase, and my dreams of being a successful professional are realized. I am fielding job offers and furthering my career with the knowledge that I am qualified and enabled. Persevere provided me with the skills, the opportunity, and the hope I needed to transform my life.

I’m working for a tech company as a developer. I have a career now! The biggest guarantee Persevere tried to get into my head was they were getting me skills I could use to secure a steady income. They delivered on that very quickly.

I can’t quantify the effect it has on me to just know that I have them there when I need them. Any sort of problem, I know that I have this unit of people, this support system who wants me to succeed and is ready to help at the drop of a hat. My life is so much more than what I thought it could be, really a dream come true, thanks to Persevere & Banyan Labs.

TIANA TURMAN

TIANA TURMAN

Hi, my name is Tiana Turman. I was incarcerated at Perryville Women's Prison in Goodyear, Arizona where I was sentenced to 10 years. I was only 18 years old when I was arrested.

TIANA'S STORY

I fought my case for 2 ½ years in the Maricopa county jail which was a very scary and emotional journey. One of the thoughts that continuously ran through my mind was that my life was over - that even when I am free I will never be able to get a job or go back to school! Having a felony was the worst thing ever but also having a felony for 2nd degree murder was even worse.

Once I got to prison when I was 21, I took classes and programs that were available to me but none of them made me feel like I could enter society again and be successful. I worried that when I came home it would be hard on my family to support me. I would need so many things like a car, a job, clothes, food, basically everything! But my last year in prison I was in a minimum yard, and I saw flyers about Persevere, so I decided to check it out and see what they had to offer. I was skeptical because I was used to being turned down from certain programs because of my charge so I didn't want to face that disappointment again. But I figured why not try and apply and see what happens.

I always wanted to be some kind of designer whether it be logos, websites, photos whatever it was I wanted to create something. When I got accepted into the class it was more than I expected. I expected to learn how to code but I also learned how to LIVE. the program also offered techniques on how to work in a workplace, how to understand our emotions, how to cope with past and present trauma, our teachers, Mr. Valdez and Mr. James, created a safe place for us in that classroom. A place where we could be free to express ourselves, grow and prosper.

Some people doubted if the program would really help us find jobs once released and how could we trust this program when every other program the prison offered usually lied and failed us. But they always reassured us that we would become successful. And we did! I've been home for a year now and I have been able to do things that I wouldn't be able to do if it weren't for Preserve!! I’ve been able to help my family. I've been able to buy birthday presents, Christmas presents and do things for myself.

I sometimes think what if Persevere never came to my yard and offered me this opportunity, where would I be today? Well, I know one thing for sure, things would be extremely hard on me and my family. Persevere helped get the job at Banyan Labs where I was given so much information and knowledge. I learned so much from Banyan Labs. I never stopped believing in the program because Persevere never stopped believing in me. I know I can only go up from here

Persevere has created a foundation for me to stand on for my family, and now that I’m pregnant with my first child, my son will also have a solid foundation to stand on all because of Persevere. I bought my first car and I’m looking forward to having my first home! I have so many firsts because of Persevere and their hard work and dedication.

Thank you for this opportunity and this amazing gift! Yes, I have a felony, but I am also a web developer and now a coding instructor helping young kids learn to code and also adults who have been in my situation. It feels good to help others like I was helped and watch individuals grow and create positive change. My grandma told me while I was in prison when I first started the class that one day Persevere would ask me to come work for them. I thought she was crazy. I was like well I will work for Banyan Labs and from there we’ll see where it goes. But she was right almost two years later Stacie Books offered me a job as a coding instructor for Persevere and here I am now doing what I love, helping others and coding!

ALEX MARSDEN

ALEX MARSTON

My name is Alexander Marston, and I was 26 when I was incarcerated. I lost everything I held dear to me...

ALEX'S STORY

I lost everything I held dear to me: my kids, my future wife, and my family. I’ve always loved computers and developing software as a way to connect with my engineer father. When I heard the warden introduce the new Persevere coding program, I knew I had to get involved. Since that day, Persevere has exceeded every expectation I’ve had for them. Some people didn’t believe that they’d be able to keep all their promises but Persevere has gone so far beyond what I imagined. They not only taught me to be a full stack developer but helped me reconnect with my youngest son — the most important part of my life.

Persevere helped me get a job, a car, housing and so much more. They taught me about emotional wellness and how to conduct myself in a professional environment through Persevere+. I realize now just how serious the Persevere staff is about seeing their students succeed. After 3 years, I’m back with my family, I’m getting married, and I’m with my kids. I have a career and a strong personal and professional support system. Persevere gave me a purpose.

Blaine Reid

BLAINE REID

Without Persevere I wouldn’t be where I am today. I would probably be scraping by with some basic job. I might start school…. If I had the time or the money... I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today.

BLAINE'S STORY

Where to start my story with my experience with Persevere? My experience with Persevere was a serendipitous manifestation of my desire. I was working at ACI making $5.25 an hour, which is amazing money in prison. During my time there I had taken the lead on CAD design and running the automated saw, which was used to cut our house plans out into each piece. However, it was a pain to format csv files to import into the saw. Which lead me to teaching myself Visual Basic and using that to automate the csv formatting. I absolutely fell in love with coding and wanted to know more. I wished there was a program like the one I had seen on PBS called “The Last Mile”, where inmates were taught to code. I remember it clearly. 

Then Covid hit, not a month later, and within a month the company went out of business and maybe two weeks later there was a posting about Persevere. I knew I would be a part of it. And I was 1 of 17 people selected for the initial start of the program, out of 2000 people. It is absolutely incredible. I was in a medium custody level yard. Programs like this don’t come to medium yards. Yet, it came to mine - and I was selected. If it had come even a couple weeks later, I would have been ineligible due to my release date. Everything happened perfectly. 

I went in with the knowledge that I manifested this, and I wasn’t going to waste it. I spent every moment of time studying and fell even more in love with coding. I loved the challenge. It was a puzzle and would consume me. I would write on my locker with dry erase markers to solve a challenge. I would study 4 to 6 hours beyond class time. I devoted myself to mastering it. I knew it was the career I wanted. Nothing would stop me. Yes, it was challenging, especially doing it in prison. Where we were limited on resources. We couldn’t hop on Google when we had a problem. We had to dig through README’s and any other doc we could find. But those things made me a better coder. I had to understand the code, not just be good at googling and copying code to solve a problem.

And now, I am a software engineer intern for one of the biggest background check companies in the world. I make over 100k a year as an intern - and will be added as a full-time software engineer in 6 weeks when my internship is up, where I will make even more. My wife will be able to go part time and go back to school as she wants. I have time to do things I love and then go to work from home at a job I love. I am also teaching my step kids how to code, while also having the time to actually spend time with them. I have the resources to do things with my family. It is because of Persevere being there and giving me the opportunity to learn the skills I now have, that all of this is possible. 

Without Persevere… I wouldn’t be where I am today. I would have some basic job that I probably hate, scraping by. I might start school…. If I had time or the money to. I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today.

UP-girl

JONATHAN NETTLES

Persevere was a great motivator for Jonathan and his fellow students. “The program isn’t always easy,” Jonathan says, “But Persevere did a great job of keeping us excited about spending the time and effort to keep learning.” 

JONATHAN'S STORY

Jonathan Nettles was in prison for a two-year sentence on drug-related charges when someone gave him a slip of paper asking him to be at an assembly that afternoon. He had no idea what the gathering would be about until Sean Hosman, Co-Founder of Persevere, started sharing an opportunity. 

Sean explained that Persevere is a national nonprofit that helps justice-impacted people learn to code and become full-stack developers, even behind prison walls. This provided a chance for incarcerated individuals to start building their career skills so they would be on the path to success even before release. 

The deciding factor for Jonathan was his earning potential. “Honestly, I looked at the money,” Jonathan says. “They said with a tech career you could start making a good amount right away.” And Banyan Labs, another company owned by Sean Hosman, hires Persevere graduates upon reentry, giving them on-the-job training and valuable resume material. Jonathan thought it seemed like a good option. 

Jonathan’s experience in the classroom was a positive one. “The class was pretty cool, and the environment felt like a fraternity,” Jonathan says. “We were all in it together, no matter what was going on in the yard.” There were some challenges in the program, such as learning to code without internet access for the first eight months, and then learning through remote instruction once the COVID-19 pandemic hit. But these challenges created new learning experiences for everyone involved, and everyone did the best they could to make things work. 

Though Jonathan had initially been planning to join Banyan Labs once his sentence was up, he was surprised to learn that instead, Persevere put him in touch with a graphic design firm called Design Pickle. They interviewed Jonathan through Zoom while he was still in prison, and 12 days after his release in November of 2020, he started his new job in the tech department.

In his role at Design Pickle, Jonathan is able to use many of the skills he learned through Persevere. He provides tech support, triages issues, and troubleshoots problems as they arise. He is also continuing to learn as he progresses, and Design Pickle has been very supportive as Jonathan helps define and expand his role in the company.