When she woke up in the morning and saw the news reports, Chassi Mills was worried for her job. "I'd only been there 28 days at that point," she recalls. "I was the last one in, so I figured I was the first to go."
Chassi works at Westgate Resort in Gatlinburg, and she worked hard to get there.
"I have felonies on my record. That was my big barrier from the beginning," she explains.
According to a study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, only around 40% of employers said they would consider hiring job applicants with criminal histories. Even fewer would consider ex-offenders for jobs involving customer service or handling money.
Though Chassi knew her odds of finding a job were greatly reduced due to her background, she was determined. When she found out about Goodwill’s job training and placement support, she immediately signed up.
"I was like, you guys are my only hope. Here I am. I made a mess. I'm trying to fix it. Help me. I'll do whatever you say; just help me."
Through her involvement with Goodwill's computer training program, she found the confidence and support that she needed to enter the workforce. "There’s so much more that happens in there besides the Word and the Excel. You gain a new confidence. You really do. You get this whole 'you can do it' attitude," Chassi recalls. “It's even more than 'you can do it.' [You're learning about] the real life situations- about how to interview, what you should wear. Giving you confidence that you came this far and you can go further."
Chassi says she felt very lucky to have been hired at Westgate Resorts. Her criminal history was a deterrent at first, but she proved herself to be confident, capable and personable, sealing the deal on her new job.
Understandably, when she heard reports that the resort was destroyed in the late-November wildfires, she dreaded having to look for another job. When Westgate management called a meeting shortly after the fire and announced that they would pay for the lost hours and would give employees the opportunity to continue to work cleaning up the damage, Chassi was extremely thankful and jumped on the offer to continue working. Now, as Westgate rebuilds, Chassi feels confident about her future.
"The whole purpose of this is to give my kids a better life. That's what it's for. That's why I went to [Goodwill]. That's why I've done everything that I've done and everything that I'm doing."
Goodwill provides vocational services and employment opportunities to individuals with all kinds of barriers to employment. Learn more about the computer training program here.