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Beyond prison walls, mentor program brings two TBT graduates together

Samantha (left) with Lori upon graduating from a local program in Abilene.

When Lori agreed to be Samantha’s mentor, she knew they had more in common than their shared experience of incarceration.

For starters, both women are graduates and former classroom mentors of Truth Be Told’s Talk to Me program at Lockhart Correctional. Lori went through the program in 2014 and was released from prison in 2015. Samantha took Talk to Me in 2018 and completed her sentence this past April.

Moreover, both women settled in Abilene after their incarceration. For Lori, it was a fresh start. For Samantha, it was a return to home. Lastly, both women sought support in an Abilene-based organization that offers personal, career, academic and spiritual development for underemployed individuals. A component of that program involves peer-to-peer mentoring, and that’s how the two Truth Be Told graduates initially connected. Lori, who had gone through the Abilene program a few years prior, was introduced as Samantha’s mentor.

“I was, admittedly, hesitant to mentor Sam because I was in a season where so many things are unclear and unsure to me,” says Lori. “But I know how important it is to have someone on your side and solely in your corner.”

Samantha says Lori is “just the person I have needed in my life.”

“She asks the hard questions,” Samantha says. “She says the things I need to hear even if I don’t want to. She is honest and wonderfully blunt. I value these things about her. I believe we have a very similar calling on our lives, and there is a lot I can learn from her.”

According to Lori, learning is a two-way street in their mentor-mentee relationship.

“Sam taught me that just because our paths have been so similar, we have marked differences — different goals, different dreams and different routes to get there,” Lori says. “I value her goals and her dreams and her path, and, because of Sam, I know that it’s my passion to help women coming from incarceration get there. So, that’s what Sam has taught me.”

Samantha is now gainfully employed in Abilene, and she has found ways to be of service to her community. This past June, Samantha accepted Truth Be Told’s invitation to travel to Austin and share her story at our annual Community of Changemakers dinner and fundraiser.

“In being of service, I am forced to look outside of my own small world and jump into a world that is much bigger and much more fulfilling than the tiny, selfish one that I had previously occupied,” Samantha says. “I love that if I need help with something that I can work for it. I am not being conditioned to live in a welfare state. This is huge for me, as I have never lived without government assistance or dependence on criminal activities to meet my needs.”

Samantha says she plans to further her education once she is more financially stable. She is eyeing social work or business as her field of study.

“Before I do that, I need some lived experiences that I can build upon,” she says. “I need good job references. I plan on building up my reputation within my community. People need to know who I am now — not the person they will see on my background check. I understand that simply takes time. I am OK with that. I understand that good things take time and effort.”

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