By Stephanie Eres
Public Information Officer I
Mother of six and former California Prison Industry Authority (CALPIA) graduate, Vera Salcedo, walked into the Folsom Women’s Facility (FWF) beaming with pride. The June 6 visit to prison was different, in her words “transforming.” Wearing professional attire instead of her prison blues, Vera attended and provided words of encouragement to the female offenders at the graduation ceremony.
“Take advantage of the programs when you get out. These programs are set in place so that you can have an option when you get out,” said Vera. “There is an open door. Follow that positive path and take advantage of it.”
A month earlier, Vera spoke to more than 70 women at CALPIA’s graduation at the California Institution for Women (CIW). A graduate from CALPIA’s Pre-Apprentice Carpentry and Pre-Apprentice Construction Labor programs at CIW, Vera wanted to share her story and be that role model. Since her release, she has been working with the Southwest Carpenters Union and is the Site Safety Officer for Guy Yocom Construction, a large construction firm in Southern California.
Nearly 50 women in CALPIA programs celebrated their accomplishments at the FWF graduation, which is made possible through partnerships with CDCR’s Division of Rehabilitative Programs, local trade unions, and Autodesk. The women earned certificates in Pre-Apprentice Carpentry, Pre-Apprentice Construction Labor, AutoCAD, Healthcare Facilities Maintenance, General Facilities Maintenance and Repair, and Customer Service Training.
Before introducing Vera, CDCR Undersecretary of Operations, Kathleen Allison, spoke to the graduates.
“These programs provided you hope. They gave you an opportunity for something different. Take advantage of that. Believe in the power of transformation and second chances. It is possible!”
“We are here for one reason. We are here to make you folks successful. And part of this is you making the decision to be successful,” said Scott Walker, General Manager of CALPIA. “Sometimes people in life think they have made poor decisions. And those poor decisions will define them for the rest of their life. I will tell you it is never too late to make a different decision and go down a different road.”
One by one, each woman was called to the stage to accept their industry-accredited certificate. With supporters, family members, and classmates in attendance, each graduate walked to the podium proudly shaking hands.
CALPIA’s Career Technical Education (CTE) program, partners with CDCR and local trade unions to train offenders with classroom and hands-on experience. After offenders graduate and are released they have the opportunity to work for the trade unions. CALPIA pays their first year of union dues and purchases a set of tools for those women entering the trades once released from prison.
“I am using those same skills that I learned inside while I was in the program; I’m doing that outside for my job site. That definitely helped build me and helped build my confidence. I know I am capable of so much more than I ever gave myself credit for growing up,” said Vera Salcedo.
She continued, “Like Scott Walker said earlier, this doesn’t have to define us. Our past doesn’t have to define us. Prison doesn’t have to define us. We can make a difference now if we put our mind to it. Whatever we put our mind too, we can accomplish because we are just that great!”