08/02/2023 |

Andra Gadson EOTM Photo

After serving a 25 year to life sentence, Andra Gadson entered a halfway house in November 2015. “One week after entering that halfway house, Derrie McClure came to talk to the residence about the construction program. 5 months later, I graduated at the top of that same construction class having never missed one single day.” Andra Gadson held many positions in construction and other trades until the merger with Success Centers in 2017. This merger was the beginning of Andra’s career journey with Success Centers. Andra applied for and was awarded the job of Case Manager/Instructor for the same construction program that he’d graduated from 2 years before!

In this role, Andra instructed the students on the how to’s of the construction trade including building tiny homes. He interviewed and hired more instructors (who still teach our construction program today) and by the end of 2017, was promoted to Case Manager and Job Readiness Training Specialist. In 2020, Andra was promoted to Security Lead for the Tay Navigation Center where he and his team of 5 were responsible for ensuring the safety and security of the center. Andra also took this opportunity to talk to groups about choices, decisions and consequences. Due to a sudden staff vacancy, Andra stepped in as Lead Supervisor for the Pit Stop Project and managed that project through its duration.

In 2022, Dre (Andra nickname) attended a 4-day Credible Messenger training at the Juvenile Hall in Washington, DC. This training was attended by other Community Based Organizations (CBO) throughout the country who had successfully launched this program. The training, taught by founder Clinton Lacy, taught the approach of “What Love Looks Like” as part of the Credible Messenger mentoring movement which shows incarcerated youth how to deal with trauma from a place of hope and love. Dre recalls that “no one ever came to me that way.” The Credible Messenger training helped Dre develop his approach on how to deal with youth who feel hopeless. Teaching and demonstrating to them what hope looks like. Love on them that have never been shown this type of compassion or felt this deep connection with anyone. Going through the curriculum of this course and connecting on such a high level with the mission of the movement, Dre understood the potential impacts, wanted to learn it and share it.

You are more than your trauma

You are more than what happened to you

    This human interaction for some that are only accustomed to abusing or being abused, is life changing. These youth have little hope of making it past 18 years old and cannot make these types of connections to positive futures and outcomes. This is one of the reasons why Dre enjoys this program where one of the focused tenants are the 3 Components of Hope:

  • Believing that all youth can succeed without exception
  • Connecting youth with caring, hopeful adults
  • Time travel – Teach the ability of the brain to see their future and return to the present to prepare for that journey

“The Credible Messenger program impact is different as it provides wrap around services to support not only the youth incarcerated, but also provides support, if needed, to their parents post release. Success Centers Credible Messenger program works to get the whole household on track. If their parents need employment, we help with job referrals. Our approach helps to change their mindset about who’s there to support them and not abandon them once they are released. We offer mentoring, job readiness training, and high school diploma/GED courses as part of our post incarceration services.”

Dre also volunteers to support other CBO’s and speaks to at risk youth throughout the Bay Area. Known as “$5.00 Unc” in his community, Dre gives neighborhood kids $5.00 if they can share a compelling story with him. Stealing because they are hungry, not having bus money to get to school or shoes to play sports are just some of the challenges children from the community face daily. Dre provides a little money and a lot of compassion and love furthering the message of hope. He has taken 5 drug dealers from that same community and enrolled them into the construction program. ALL 5 are now working and no longer selling drugs.

Dre is getting baptized soon and through his experiences with Success Centers, truly understands and lives in his purpose to reach these children and follow his own mission statement: Right, Motivate and Teach hope to at risk youth. He feels that his work helps children navigate through and detonate landmines without experiencing explosions.

On behalf of us all at Success Centers who have the pleasure of working with you and seeing you shine, CONGRATULATIONS EMPLOYEE OF THE YEAR, Andra!!!