My son received the Kawani’s B.U.G award in school and this time, I was able to be present to support and honor him. It’s like a miracle that I know wouldn’t be a reality if it wasn’t for Persevere and Banyan Labs. Being there for my son is a dream come true I couldn’t be more grateful for second chance I’ve been given.
My name is Mark Clark and I am the Business Development Director for Banyan Labs. I was hired by Banyan Labs after being released from prison October 28th, 2021.
My 4.5 year sentence was (as you can imagine) one of the hardest and most painful experiences I have endured throughout my life. In the beginning of my sentence (and perhaps even before being arrested), I had officially given up on life. I parked, I checked out, I no longer believed in or valued myself. After a few months went by, I woke up one morning to a slip that requested me to be present at a meeting in our prison's town hall. On the top right of the slip, there was a word in large bold lettering. That word was "PERSEVERE". I read about the web development program and at the time, I was desperately in need of something to talk me off the ledge I was on.
I was accepted into the Persevere Web Development program and little did I know about how much my experience would impact my life. I began coding and started feeling like I was actually doing something of value with my time. I now had a goal, I had a plan, I had something that I could be proud of. More importantly, I was able to show my family that I had let down, that I was making an effort to change my life and make up for the mistakes I have made.
I graduated from the Coding program, I became a teacher's aide for the same coding program during my final year and when I was released, I was provided an opportunity to work with Banyan Labs. I now spend my time building partnerships with companies who will give second chances to our Web and Software developers. I am able to share my inspiration and help others coming from a similar painful path as mine. I couldn't be more grateful for the teams that contributed to saving my life and helping me redeem myself. Everyday is like a dream and I catch myself often teary eyed from the life changing moments I experience and kindness I am shown from the team at Banyan Labs and the partnered companies. I wouldn't change a single spec of my life and my experiences.
I know if it weren't for Banyan Labs and Persevere, there is a strong chance I would be back in the streets abusing drugs, back in prison or worse. This reality remains close to me everyday and it is like a miracle. I cannot thank Persevere and Banyan Labs enough. I am truly blessed.
"Without Persevere… I wouldn’t be where I am today. I would have some basic job that I probably hate, scraping by. I might start school…. If I had time or the money too. I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today."
Where to start my story with my experience with Persevere? My experience with Persevere was a serendipitous manifestation of my desire. I was working at ACI making $5.25 an hour, which is amazing money in prison. During my time there I had taken the lead on CAD design and running the automated saw, which was used to cut our house plans out into each piece. However, it was a pain to format csv files to import into the saw. Which lead me to teaching myself Visual Basic and using that to automate the csv formatting. I absolutely fell in love with coding and wanted to know more. I wished there was a program like the one I had seen on PBS called “The Last Mile”, where inmates were taught to code. I remember it clearly.
Then Covid hit, not a month later, and within a month the company went out of business and maybe two weeks later there was a posting about Persevere. I knew I would be a part of it. And I was 1 of 17 people selected for the initial start of the program, out of 2000 people. It is absolutely incredible. I was in a medium custody level yard. Programs like this don’t come to medium yards. Yet, it came to mine and I was selected. If it had come even a couple weeks later. I would have been ineligible due to my release date. Everything happened perfectly.
I went in with the knowledge that I manifested this and I wasn’t going to waste it. I spent every moment of time studying and fell even more in love with coding. I loved the challenge. It was a puzzle and would consume me. I would write on my locker with dry erase markers to solve a challenge. I would study 4 to 6 hours beyond class time. I devoted myself to mastering it. I knew it was the career I wanted. Nothing would stop me. Yes, it was challenging, especially doing it in prison. Where we were limited on resources. We couldn’t hop on Google when we had a problem. We had to dig through README’s and any other doc we could find. But those things made me a better coder. I had to understand the code, not just be good at googling and copying code to solve a problem.
And now, I am a software engineer intern for one of the biggest background check companies in the world. I make over 100k a year as an intern and will be added as a full time software engineer in 6 weeks when my internship is up. Where I will make even more. Which has allowed me to not get a house but I am having one built. My wife will be able to go part time and go back to school as she wants. I have time to do things I love and then go to work from home at a job I love. I am also teaching my step kids how to code, while also having the time to actually spend time with them. I have the resources to do things with my family. It is because of Persevere being there and giving me the opportunity to learn the skills I now have, that all of this is possible.
Without Persevere… I wouldn’t be where I am today. I would have some basic job that I probably hate, scraping by. I might start school…. If I had time or the money too. I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today.