Recipe for Success

Chanlyut graduate Isaac Bob is an example of the kind of transformation Chanlyut can provide if one is willing to invest in himself. Isaac said he has seen through his own experience how stable work can lead to a meaningful life.

Chanlyut graduate Isaac Bob is an example of the kind of transformation Chanlyut can provide if one is willing to invest in himself. Isaac said he has seen through his own experience how stable work can lead to a meaningful life. Photos by Wayde Carroll

Chanlyut instills the life skills needed for long-term employment

Getting up each day and going to work: It’s what shapes the lives of so many of us. It’s what structures our days and gives us meaning. Sometimes, it’s even what keeps us going.

That’s especially true for the men at Chanlyut. “We teach our participants to trade one thing for the other—trade the drugs or alcohol for an honest day’s work,” says Program Director Bill Tsurnos.

As a residential work-training and re-education program, Chanlyut operates on the idea that doing meaningful work equips its participants with the life skills and accountability that make it possible for them to succeed beyond the program.

Isaac_019By behaving as successful, positive, contributing members of society, participants learn to believe in their ability to truly become the men they strive to be. Several resident-run small businesses provide participants with vocational training and marketable job skills that improve the likelihood of securing long-term employment after graduation.

Partnerships with local businesses, meanwhile, allow participants in the “work-out” phase of their training to transition to jobs outside Chanlyut while still receiving the program support they need.

“When they come to Chanlyut, most of these men have no real vocational skills,” Tsurnos explains. “By the time they leave two years later, they know how to be responsible, accountable and hard-working.”

Chanlyut graduate Isaac Bob was exactly the kind of man Tsurnos describes.

“We’re always looking for hard workers ... If Isaac is any representation of the type of positive attitude and work ethic Chanlyut instills, then there is absolutely more room for us to work together,” said Bear Tooth Theater Pub and General Manager Stephanie Johnson.

“We’re always looking for hard workers … If Isaac is any representation of the type of positive attitude and work ethic Chanlyut instills, then there is absolutely more room for us to work together,” said Bear Tooth Theater Pub and General Manager Stephanie Johnson.

Sent to prison as a teen and released 26 years later, Isaac had never been on a job interview, never cashed a paycheck, never opened a bank account. Now he works at Bear Tooth Theater Pub and Grill as a dishwasher, where his positive attitude bolsters his coworkers, says Bear Tooth General Manager Stephanie Johnson.

“There’s been a lot of transition in the dish pit, so it’s been stressful on the crew, but Isaac comes in with a big smile on his face, and he always has such a great attitude,” Johnson says.

“If I wasn’t in this program and didn’t have this job, I’d probably be in jail right now,” Isaac admits. He’s seen how meaningful work can lead to a meaningful life—so he decided to try and create more opportunities for men like himself. He approached Johnson and told her about Chanlyut and the two years he’d spent in the program.

“He thought I should meet Bill [Tsurnos] and find ways to do more with the program,” Johnson recalls. “I was blown away. It was such a simple, direct request. Now we’re talking to see how we can foster a better relationship between Chanlyut and the Bear Tooth.”

Isaac has become another example of the transformation Chanlyut can nurture within its participants—a change that’s possible through the work he does. “I think that’s how you test people—put them somewhere and see how they work,” Isaac says. “Now I’ve got a good work ethic. I work hard. I’m passing the test.”

“We’re always looking for hard workers,” Johnson adds. “If Isaac is any representation of the type of positive attitude and work ethic Chanlyut instills, then there is absolutely more room for us to work together.”