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TEEM: New Skills, New Opportunity

CareerTech’s skills centers and TEEM, a nonprofit education and employment ministry, are giving former offenders second chances.


For more information visit these links:

Oklahoma Department of Corrections

The Education and Employment Ministry

Show Details

Show 1620: TEEM: New Skills, New Opportunity
Air Date: May 15, 2016


Rob McClendon: For Oklahoma inmates Starr Timmons and Brittany Richey, life after incarceration is soon to begin, and whether they find themselves back behind bars could well be determined in the next few months. Both women are taking part in culinary classes to help them gain skills they can use outside the prison gate, thanks to a partnership between CareerTech’s skills centers and a nonprofit education and employment ministry called TEEM.

Brittany Richey: I actually escaped from a prison diversion program, one of the best ones in Oklahoma, called Women in Recovery. And I didn’t believe that I would get a second chance to do anything because I honestly believed that was my second chance. But then I heard about his amazing program that helps you get ready for work skills, helps you build a resume, helps you communicate with people and have conflict resolution skills. And I was lucky enough to get into TEEM’s program.

Greg Dewald: Our program brings socials together to fill the gaps that offenders, inmates have.

Starr Timmons: I’m just trying to make really good use of my time, you know, because I’m locked up and I want to make it productive. My whole demeanor is to be better instead of bitter. It’s such a great opportunity for us because we get to, first of all, we get to go straight to work release after we graduate. For us to be able to go work and save money, and we also, as we’re working we get to pay on our fine, too. Culinary arts is just really popular, you know, and you see it on TV all the time, and it just seems really fun and interesting. I love to bake and make cookies and cakes, and it just seems like a really interesting career choice. And that’ll be, when I get out, I’ll have something to show for it, and I can use it on job applications.

Dewald: TEEM takes care of a lot of the, to build their resume. They go through training, a lot of job search stuff.

Richey: They’ve given me skills – knife skills, recipe learning skills. I’m proficient with using kitchen equipment now. So they’ve given me a lot of things that I can take with me after my incarceration so I don’t have to go back to the same things that I was doing.

Timmons: It’s a lot of fun being in the kitchen with all the girls at once and everybody really busy. It’s kind of like flow and like we’re one, which is really cool. My son is engaged, and so him and his fiancé have been waiting for me to get released before they have their wedding and it’s got me thinking that I want to plan their wedding for ’em. It’s got me thinking, oh how fun, I can make all the food, you know, for their wedding. And it’s got me thinking how neat would it be to like even start my own business and do that all the time with other, you know, events.

Richey: I would love to be on “Hells Kitchen” actually [laugh]. This incarceration has meant a lot to me because I don’t, I wasn’t equipped with skills that I needed to live in the world. So to be able to do this and have something that I can take care of my daughter when I get out, that, that means a lot to me.

Timmons: It’s the first time they made you feel not like inhuman, like you come here, and everyone here is so nice, and they treat you just like you’re a normal person. They bring people here to interview us, and they help us with resumes, they help us fill out job applications, all that kind of stuff that a lot of people have never done before. I really started to believe in myself more and look at all the options that I had and, and in all the areas, in cooking, in culinary. So it’s really exciting.

Richey: I believe after this stay and my incarceration, it has taught me where I don’t want to be. And to get the opportunity to be chosen for CareerTech, I will definitely never be here again.

Rob: Well, Oklahoma’s skills centers are half the size of what they were 10 years ago due to state budget cuts, but thanks to partnerships with groups like TEEM, there has been a 10 percent increase from last year in the number of inmates served. Now, earlier I was able to sit down to visit with the director of TEEM, former Speaker of the House Kris Steele, and if you’d like to see that full interview, just head to and look under our value added section.

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