Just the ability...to be able to socialize with the various ethnicities and cultures and see life from a different lens, to sit down and have dialogue with people from different points of view … was very beneficial
- Earl Walker, EJP Alumnus
Despite being placed under strict house arrest upon his release from prison in June, Earl Walker has already managed to start his own business, a “Total Fitness,” that he runs out of his home. A self-described “health nut,” Earl says that working as a personal trainer for his six clients allows him to follow his passion for exercise while providing him with a crucial source of income. For his success in business, he credits the extensive preparation he undertook while in prison, including his participation in EJP.
It was not only the classes, but also the culture and community of EJP that Earl appreciated. “Just the ability to socialize outside of what’s normal to the prison mentality, to be able to socialize with the various ethnicities and cultures and see life from a different lens, to sit down and have dialogue with people from different points of view … was very beneficial,” he explains.
These skills of dialogue and intercultural communication have served Walker well since his release. For example, in starting his business, Earl participated in several training programs, including one called the “Basic Entrepreneurship Support & Training”, or “B.E.S.T.,” Program, which is run through Jewish Vocational Services and gives loans to applicants who demonstrate viability, including having a valid business license. Walker credits EJP with helping him find and utilize these services. “People in our situation or coming from urban communities would hear the name [‘Jewish Vocational Services’] and say ‘I ain’t going there’ but having an open mind learned from EJP, I have no biases or prejudices or stereotypes or hang-ups to prevent me from going to a place like that.”
In order to attend training programs, Earl must provide parole with “addresses, names, phone numbers, times, dates—everything.” “But,” he adds, “with all of these restrictions I’m still able to go out and fight and get things done.”