MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - Getting your life back on track after a criminal conviction can be tough. It’s often hard to do the simple things like find a place to live and get access to education. Finding a job can be even tougher.
But, a Minneapolis restaurant that serves up gourmet grilled cheese is making it easier for ex-cons to get back on their feet. Now, All Square has been named as one of Time Magazine’s Greatest Places in the World. Not only for offering people with a rap sheet a place to work, but a place to grow professionally as well.
Workers Onika Goodluck and Chris Dolan are brim with excitement. "Without this program, I’d say there’s a 50-50 shot maybe I’d be in jail right now," said Chris Dolan.
They and nine others just graduated from All Square’s new year-long fellowship program.
"My opinion is so many people go back to prison because it’s the only places they’re welcome once they have a record," said All Square Fellow founder Emily Hunt Turner.
Hunt Turner, a civil rights attorney, puts the program on the table for the previously incarcerated, serving them a real shot at a fresh start.
"If I was told I could never move past any of the egregious mistakes I’ve made, I try to imagine that. It's what makes me get up in the morning let alone try to be a leader," she said.
That spirit has helped Dolan turn a new leaf.
"Since I’ve been here, I started a business and started law school," Dolan said.
The undertaking comes 13 years since he graduated from college. All Square's Institute has helped Chris keep his felony record and battle with drug addiction behind him with distinction.
"I got an 80 percent scholarship to go to Mitchell Hamline," he said.
"When I first came into the program I was on probation," Goodluck explained.
Goodluck also enjoys the satisfaction of a complete 180.
"I went from just wanting a food truck to I launched my catering company Father's Day weekend, so I’m doing both now."
Now the owner of Daddy's Kitchen, the single mom turns a passion into her bread and butter. "I wanted to do something different I just didn’t have the tools."
The recognition from Time reaffirms where these fellows truly belong, enjoying the taste of sweet success.
"The grain of society is ultimately really beautiful," Hunt Turner said.
Hunt Turner said after more experience with the fellowship program, she hopes to finalize a blueprint she can implement in other cities to help reduce the recidivism rate across the nation.