From 30 arrests, 8 felonies and heroin addiction to teaching at UC Berkeley.

Matthew was in his mid-forties when he started college. He’d been sidetracked: Eleven years were eaten up by serving time in various county jails, state penitentiaries, and federal prison. He’d been arrested more than 30 times, racking up eight felonies in a crime career that began at age thirteen, when he started dealing pot.

When he got out of prison for the last time and kicked his heroin addiction, he was determined to spend the next chapter of his life in the classroom. And he did just that, going on to complete a master’s degree from Columbia University’s highly competitive creative writing program.

Matthew published his graphic memoir, Larceny in my Blood, back in 2012, the same year that he finished his MFA at Columbia.

And then he went back to working construction, interspersed with part-time, adjunct teaching creative writing at the local community college.

Fast forward 9 years.

In late 2020, Matthew reached out to me. He was tired of construction, and of the unstable adjunct hours. But he didn’t think that an “ex-con” could possibly get considered for a full-time, university teaching role.

I assured him that we could make it happen.

Here’s what we were working with:

Above, Matthew’s original resume

Below, the version we created together.

Matthew was just offered a full-time instructor position UC Berkeley. Congratulations, Matthew!!!

Many employers prioritize applicants with past involvement in the criminal justice system. They know very well that those with criminal records are often their most loyal and dedicated members of their team.

Rather than sweep a past conviction under the rug, we work with these job-seekers to make meaning and highlight how they’ve invested energy towards positive change.

 

What have you learned from your experiences?

In what ways have you grown?

Our approach in working with Matthew was threefold:

Bring his material into a modern, professional-looking format.

Keep the focus on his most impressive and relevant accomplishments.

Leverage his unique trajectory and experiences to set him apart.

Matthew’s creative writing classes at Berkeley are open to the public this summer!

Learn more and register here.