Valerie Pettis: Champion

When Valerie first met OJPC Paralegal Advocate Yaacov Delaney through OJPC’s partnership with Cincinnati Works, her conviction record was two pages long.

She had at least 40 convictions appearing on her criminal history record, stemming from 1987 up to 2011.  Valerie had struggled with addiction for much of her young adult and adult life. She’d been clean for about 3 or 4 years and after walking past Cincinnati Works a few times, finally got up the courage to go in one day. But employment coach Latonio Chambers didn’t want to get Valerie’s hopes up, and told her that it was likely she had too many convictions and they might not be able to help her. Valerie told him that she wasn’t that person anymore. He was convinced she had turned her life around, and referred her to Yaacov at OJPC to help her apply for a Certificate of Qualification for Employment (CQE).

Valerie was very open and willing to share the story of her journey through addiction, and the steps she continues to take to remain sober and improve her life. Valerie stated, “I had used drugs for about 20 years. I was first introduced to drugs through friends at around the age of 19. I got to the point one day, where I had spent about $800 and I decided at that point that I was through. I asked someone on the street to use their phone and I called the CAT (Chemical Addiction Treatment) House and asked them if they had space.” Although he never expressed it to Valerie, Yaacov initially felt she didn’t have much chance of getting the CQE granted, considering her extensive record. But, believing in second chances, and the power of her transformation, Yaacov told her it was possible and worth the time to proceed with the application process.

On May 24, 2016, Valerie was the first person called by Magistrate Bachman. After allowing her to express why he should grant her CQE, he stated that he called her first because he had previously made up his mind that she had too many convictions, and he was going to deny her CQE to set an example for the remaining applicants in the court room.

However, Valerie’s personal growth and will to succeed were so compelling, Magistrate Bachman changed his mind and granted her CQE. Valerie said, “I was nervous and couldn’t sleep the night before my CQE hearing. Being shut down and denied so many times, I had a lot of apprehension going into the hearing. Society needs to understand that our past doesn’t justify who we are.”

After receiving her CQE, her first potential employer wouldn’t consider the certificate because of her background. But several days later, Valerie interviewed with Allied Universal Protection Services where she presented her CQE along with her resume. During the interview, she was asked to explain what the CQE was, and that resulted in her being HIRED, where she is currently contracted out to work for Metropolitan Sewer District.