Jul 31, 2015

Mock Interview Night!

On the evening of July 22, 2015, a group of 20 or so volunteers sat at small tables in a classroom of the Dempsey Center, in Harlem. These volunteers-- members of the Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest, located at 5th Avenue and 90th Street, and The Brick Presbyterian Church at 62 East 92nd Street-- were doctors and students and corporate headhunters and even professional opera singers. Across from these volunteers sat men and women, ranging in age from 16 to 70, had been recently released from prison.  

This was Mock Interview Night, a project of the Circles of Support produced in partnership with the Harlem Community Justice Center, Interfaith Center of New York, Network in the Community, and the J.C. Flowers Foundation. Designed to help participants hone their interviewing skills and increase their confidence as they navigate the job market, Mock Interview Night pairs formerly-incarcerated individuals with professionals in their communities. As the Community Engagement Specialist for the Harlem Community Justice Center, an organization that provides reentry programs and support for recently paroled men and women, I was awed and inspired by the depth of human engagement that fraternity that emerged from the evening.

After several rounds of interviews we all sat in a circle, sharing compliments and constructive feedback. It was clear that everyone felt that it was an incredible, and incredibly successful, evening. This was especially true for the two brothers who were in attendance; the younger brother had just returned home after 4 years in prison and his older brother was there to support him through the reentry process, not to mention to brush up on his own interviewing skills. They seemed overjoyed to be together, smiling and laughing often.

The Harlem Community Justice Center, a community court located in East Harlem, works to strengthen its neighbors and community by providing resources and opportunities to the families of those returning home from prison. Strong families support, and are in turn supported by, strong communities.

As we streamed out into the warm summer evening, exchanging our final “goodnights” and “goodbyes,” no one could doubt that the participants of Mock Interview night would succeed. And their success was emblematic of even greater things to come. 

By Thomas Edwards, Community Engagement Specialist and Nicolas Maiarelli, Circles of Support Intern