Careers for People, People for Careers. Your North Central Connecticut Workforce Source.

Rising Above the Darkest of Clouds - Two True Second Chance Successes

Meet the 2016 Workforce Stars

  • Daniel Rivera
  • Gus Marks-Hamilton

Both winners were nominated by Mark Allen - Free to Succeed Retention Specialist at the American Job Center

Daniel Rivera has come a long way. He exemplifies what second chances are all about. You don’t get a 30-year prison sentence for petty crimes – the dark cloud Daniel has had to rise above is perhaps one of the hardest feats imaginable.  Yet, Daniel, with the help of his loving family, and the supports offered through programs within the Corrections system, the American Job Center and Jobs Funnel is doing well today, working, living, loving. 

It takes great courage and persistence to stay the right course, and Daniel has capitalized on every opportunity afforded to him.  From using the Online Resource Room at the American Job Center to Masonry and Construction training and certifications at the Jobs Funnel, to the Free to Succeed retention program he is now in, Daniel has recently been awarded his Certificate of Employability from the Department of Pardons and Parole. He continues to expand his dreams of being a better citizen in our community and influence in his family as a son, brother, husband, dad and grandfather. He is a positive role model, coach and teacher to young people and others in the community and he has been employed full time since being released from incarceration.

Mark Allen, Free to Succeed Retention Specialist at the American Job Center nominated Daniel as a 2016 Workforce Star, and has known this individual since he received counseling services while incarcerated.  Mark shares, “What I found remarkable and endearing regarding Mr. Rivera’s story was the evolution and is his ability to transform these negative situations into ones of compassion, love and true meaning of life, family, and being a positive member in society.”  He is now providing for his family, has an apartment, car and a promising future.  At the Workforce Stars event, Daniel stated he had never been “honored” before in front of a room of people.  This is this first of many such occasions for Daniel in the years ahead.

Gus Marks Hamilton is an independent, self-directed young man who was able to turn a negative circumstance into a positive and productive life for his family and for himself.  He is a proven survivor, intelligent, well read and well spoken, resourceful, determined and compassionate.  In his lifetime, he has made some poor choices that introduced him to the State correctional system.

With the assistance of a program within Corrections, and assistance on the outside at the American Job Center, within a short period after his release from corrections, he obtained quality employment, first as a Sandwich Artist at Subway and later as a Store Manager.  This opened the doors for housing, financial stability and means to better take care of his family and himself.  It is with the same determination that he is pursuing his Master’s Degree in Social Work with the UConn.  Though his background could have been a barrier to educational and employment opportunities, he was able to get his job and get accepted into the MSW program.  

Gus has taken this Second Chance, to do the right thing in life by rebuilding his family relations and trust, finding gainful employment and pursuing educational opportunities.  But he has not stopped there.

Gus wants to forget the negative aspects of the past, and wants to continue to assist other former offenders with their unique struggles with transitioning back in society.  In his role as a Store Manager, he was able to employ and assist other former offenders.  One particular individual he hired, later became Store Manager for another Subway.

Gus takes pride in his advocacy and public speaking regarding the Second Chance Society.  He has been asked to speak out on issues and concerns facing former offenders, and was instrumental in  getting the Ban the Box (Bill 52-37) Legislation passed.

In the photo (l-r):  Linda Kelly President of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, Workforce Star Daniel Rivera, American Job Center's Mark Allen and Workforce Star, Gus Marks-Hamilton.

The Free to Succeed program is funded by the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving through the Beatrice Fox Auerbach Foundation Fund and by the US Department of Labor.



United Bank Foundation was the Champion Sponsor of the 2016 Workforce Stars event.