Many people have lived through circumstances that others cannot imagine. A Knox County resident, Rachel Johnson, has faced many struggles beginning at a very young age. She has made many decisions - good and bad - that have led her to the woman she is now.
Rachel was dealt an unfair hand from the beginning as a child. Her mother was a drug addict whom she doesn’t remember as she left her at a very young age. Her father was an alcoholic who never held a job and drew a disability check.
While Rachel was in preschool, she was taken away from her father because of the unlivable conditions of their home, along with his drug and alcohol addictions. Rachel’s father would take drug tests distributed by the courts and fail them after receiving custody back, which would result in Rachel living with various family members in the foster care system. The unstable lifestyle affected her as a young child, and influenced her to make regrettable decisions.
At the age of ten, her father was sentenced to federal prison. Rachel once again entered the foster care system. After three years in prison, he once again gained custody of Rachel. At the age of thirteen Rachel made decisions that impacted her life in a very negative way. She began using drugs, smoking cigarettes, and getting involved with men that fueled her drug addiction.
By fifteen, Rachel dropped out of high school. She was taking care of the household because her father was still incapacitated due to his addictions. Rachel had no intentions of ever going back to school. During this time of her life, she described herself as being complacent and met every expectation others set for her, just like her mother. Rachel met a man, setting her off on a path that led to many regrettable decisions. She began doing hard drugs and would prostitute to fulfill her damaging drug addiction. At the time, she thought it was all fun and games. Now, Rachel describes her behavior at the time “sickening.”
“I was broken. I was on my own. I had a boyfriend with a severe drug addiction; it was a bad time for me as I was still using drugs while going through detox,” Rachel recalls her life during that time. “I was mentally and emotionally unstable, and a hurt little girl who was overwhelmed with life and my situation. I didn’t trust anyone and thought I was doing the right thing because that is all I knew.”
Through an unexpected change, Rachel’s life soon took a turn for the better. She had legal issues at the age of seventeen, which required her to be admitted to a rehabilitation center. She graduated from the program with a new outlook and love for life.
After she graduated, she was worried she would relapse and be in the same situation she had escaped. A local Knox County physician told her about the KCEOC KY Career Center Jobsight program, and said they may be able to help her get a job. Rachel knew this was her only choice and took a leap of faith.
After rehabilitation, Rachel came to the KCEOC Kentucky Career Center Jobsight. The Center helps people find jobs and upgrade their skills to qualify for better jobs. Additionally, they serve adults looking for work, workers of any age who have been dislocated from their jobs through closings or layoffs, and economically disadvantaged young people who need help to get education, training, and a good start into the working world. KCEOC is the area Jobsight link for employees looking for employment and employers looking for qualified employees.
Rachel completed the Opportunity Youth Program, which serves 18-24-year-olds who are not attending school and have a past criminal record or other barrier to employment. Participants are assisted with career planning, obtaining employment, and/or training opportunities. With not completing high school, and her criminal record, Rachel was eligible for the program.
When first coming to the Career Center, Rachel was very nervous. She was unsure of what to expect, and never having a previous job made the situation even more worrisome. Keith Greene, a career advisor at KY Career Center Jobsight, was assigned to Rachel. She went to the Career Center and had an interview with Keith.
Once accepted into the program, Rachel met with Keith and together they determined any needs or barriers Rachel had that would need to be addressed so as not to prevent success in the workplace. Keith then provided assessments to determine what job placement would be a best fit based on Rachel's experiences and challenges.
Rachel then attended a Work Readiness training (Ethics SENSE) that provides the participant with the knowledge of how to be successful in the workplace and what employers are looking for in a quality employee.
Once the training was completed, Keith contacted a possible employer and arranged an interview. “This would be my first job, and I had a lot of questions and was very nervous,” Rachel said. “I was very timid around men and nervous when I first met Keith. He was easy going and patient with me as ever. He answered all my questions without making feel unintelligent. He recommended great books, and sat with me for three hours on how to be and not to be at a job. I am so thankful for that learning experience.”
After Rachel’s interviews with Keith, Hope City, a local rehabilitation center, agreed to the placement, and Rachel began a subsidized work placement. The KY Career Center paid the wages and worker's compensation through Workforce Investment Opportunity Act (WIOA) funding for the total number of hours allowed by current policy (400). Throughout the work placement Keith continued to contact Rachel and assist with any issues or concerns that she or her employer had during that time. He provided encouragement and guidance as needed as well.
Not only did Hope City offer her a job, they offered her a place to live because she had nowhere to go. “The KY Career Center Jobsight pretty much got me a job. Because of this I was also able to get another job, so I am working two jobs,” Rachel said. “My experience and maturity level has drastically improved because of the Career Center. I am appreciative of the opportunity I was given through the Jobsight.”
Rachel is now working two jobs and enrolled in college, which she will begin Spring 2021. She will be studying to become a Social Worker. Rachel wants to help girls who are like her, and give them hope and an opportunity to succeed in life. Rachel says, “I have a lot to give to others.”
Growing up Rachel always looked for and wanted a home. She never received that experience. Now Rachel not only works two jobs, she also gives her testimony to other women who are in her previous situation. She is a new-found Christian, and owes all of her success to God. She says she now has a home in Knox County with the women at the rehabilitation center, and she is eternally grateful for their support and friendship.
We asked Rachel what she would like to say to the KCEOC staff about the program and she said, “Everyone wants to do the best they can at a job, having a career affects people’s lives. If I wouldn’t have had Keith to sit down and teach me one on one, and not treat me like a number, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Keith doesn’t know the impact he and the program had on life. Having a paycheck was a great feeling. I bought tennis shoes myself. This may seem small to some but I was very proud of myself. I now have my own paycheck, no longer having to do anything illegal for money. Thank you Keith for all the advice and help, I am eternally grateful.”
Now that Rachel has found employment, Keith continues to contact her monthly to provide follow up services and address any needs that may arise for the next 12 months to help ensure that Rachel continues to have a stable and successful future.
KCEOC is proud of how far Rachel has come, and is proud to offer such life-changing services to our service region. For more information about the KY Career Center Jobsight and opportunities we offer visit kceoc.org. We are proud to serve Knox County residents, and make impossible opportunities possible for those in need.
KCEOC KY Career Center Jobsight
464 Court Square
Barbourville, KY 40906.606-546-2639