Corrections program manager creates nonprofit to empower women to reach full potential

Corrections program manager creates nonprofit to empower women to reach full potential

Corrections program manager creates nonprofit to empower women to reach full potential

A Minnesota nonprofit is empowering women to pursue their full potential.

“We have a voice; that voice is not heard,” said LaToya Wilson, who created the S.H.E.E. Foundation, which stands for Sisters Healing, Evolving and Empowered. “And so it’s important to me to teach other women they matter, they are empowered, their voice does matter and to speak loudly and proudly about what it is they want as well as what they don’t want.”

She started reaching out to women through a Facebook group where she gave them a space to share their experience and trauma. Two years ago, she decided to take it a step further and establish a nonprofit.

Her organization provides women the opportunity to learn life skills, including cooking, resume building and job preparation. The first cohort of women of all ages started meeting in June.

Some of the women have prior convictions.

“A lot of the ones that are justice-involved, do not have a lot of work experience so instead of doing a chronological resume, we do a skills-based resume,” said Wilson. “That’s a way that we take away that shame-based model.”

She understands the barriers women face. Wilson has worked in corrections for nearly two decades and is currently in a program manager position that focuses on community-based restorative services, cognitive behavior interventions and violence mitigation.

“I know a lot about convictions, I know a lot about conditions for court, I know a lot about helping them to gather resources that uplift them,” said Wilson. “I can teach them to navigate the system in a way that’s resourceful and as a way they can be more available for their children, for their families, to get back into a life that’s abundant for them.”

Awo Duale is one of six women participating in the first group.

“She tells it like it is,” Duale said of Wilson. “She encourages other people to be who they are.”

Nearly a decade ago, Duale became involved in the justice system.

“I found myself in places I didn’t want to be and I learned from them and I changed,” she said. “I threw myself into work but I didn’t do the healing and that’s what I needed to focus on.”

Over the last several months, the S.H.E.E Foundation has created a space to begin that healing.

“What I want to take out of this experience is being confident in my personality, being able to be more positive towards other people so I can encourage them too to be who they want to be,” said Duale. “There’s a lot of different type of women. Meeting them is pretty amazing because you get to share different things and different cultures with them.”

Not all of the women have encountered the justice system. The group setting is creating meaningful relationships for all of the women.

“They inspire each other,” said Wilson. “They feed off each other in a positive way.”

Both Wilson and Duale encourage other women to sign up for the program as they celebrate the success so far.

“I have someone who went back to school, I have someone who got promoted at a job,” said Wilson. “When people feel like they mean something, they do their best work at that time.”

The S.H.E.E. Foundation will be holding its annual gala on Saturday, October 14 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Edinburgh USA in Brooklyn Park. For more information, click here.