Graduate Spotlight: Melissa Lopez

How did you find TPOM?

I came to a seminar a my facility and heard Thomas describe the program here. At first, I wanted to return to Knoxville but doors closed in that direction and when I got here, TPOM was great.

What were some of your concerns when you arrived?

 I was concerned about having no family here. But I talk to my children every day, my family comes to visit, and my daughter even came down from Michigan to see me.

How has TPOM been helpful with your reeentry?

From the moment I arrived, the staff poured out so much love on me. I got great attention and much encouragement and they got me in the right direction. But what I like is that they don’t baby us; they help us learn how to be independent again after being in prison where everything is done for us.

How has your work experience been?

I got a great job at a heating and cooling company as a dispatcher. I have some IT training and I’ve been designing and building a website for them. I have been working on a degree from Chattanooga State in Business Administration and I’ve been able to apply what I’ve learned to keep track of clients and do some bookkeeping for them. It’s been a great place to work.

What do people need to know about incarceration?

I want them to understand that incarceration is not an easy journey, especially the separation from family. We still need to be treated like human beings. I would ask them to not be too judgmental because they may not know the circumstances that led to incarceration. I know that many incarcerated people want to change. I know many women who have been successful after they were released. 

What goals do you have for the future?

I am focused on getting a place and a car and finishing my education. I’d love to get a job in my chosen field in IT after I get the certificates for that. But I’m taking it a day at a time. I’m so grateful for a second chance and to be able to start over the right way.

What advice would you give for people considering a program like TPOM?

Make sure you want to succeed or reentry will never work. Follow the rules and you can be successful. Keep Jesus Christ first because without him, you can do nothing.


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