Jonda is a Recovery Corps alumni who works full-time at Minnesota Recovery Connection (MRC). She earned a Peer Recovery Support Specialist certification through her service, which has allowed her to step into her role at MRC. Jonda now works closely with justice-involved people in recovery, visiting local prisons and jails to support them in their recovery and help them transition to life after prison. Here’s our conversation with her.
So how did you get start serving with Recovery Corps?
I got sober on January 31st, 2017, the day before my 40th birthday. A doctor told me about MRC after I had been sober for a little over a year. I started the Recovery Coach Academy at MRC in 2018, then I started full-time with Recovery Corps that August, and it changed my life.
What did you love about Recovery Corps? How did it change your life?
Number one was the support I had. Katie Boardman was my rock. Katie always had my back. I can’t even say good enough things about what she has done for me in my life. I hope that I carry that on.
Justin McNeil also gave me that opportunity to grow. I met Justin through my training at MRC, and he became my Recovery Coach and is now my supervisor. He took the time to really get to know me. I knew I wanted to serve with Recovery Corps because he had served, and he showed me so much.
There are a lot of things that you’re going to get wrong in the beginning. Every day is different. Just having the backup that I had and the love that I felt, I felt like somebody really cared. I grew so much being around other people who had the same passion for learning.
It seems like you really got to give other people that support when you were serving with Recovery Corps.
I see tons of people that come in and out of MRC that I’ve helped or I’ve worked with. I work with a guy now who I helped fill out the application for the Recovery Coach Academy. I remember the day he came in, and he’s been involved with MRC for four years now.
I helped organize a daily virtual recovery call when COVID-19 shut everybody down during my first year with Recovery Corps. To this day we still do that call. Many people were close to relapse, so just being able to talk to people, I know I helped them.
My sister watched me be a part of Recovery Corps, she just joined the program too. Now watching her do her thing is amazing. I’m praying she gets the same out of it that I did because it had such a huge impact on me.
What do you do now in your job with MRC?
I’m the lead justice-involved peer navigator, so I have so many roles. I run a pen pal program for people in jails and prisons that I did when I was in AmeriCorps. We do weekly discussion groups and programming in local prisons for justice-involved people in recovery. We’ve talked about gratitude, forgiveness, co-occurrence disorders, you name it. I also meet with people who are exiting prison to help them transition.
I was in prison a couple of times, so I talk with people a lot about my lived experience. I tell them how I was able to turn my life around. I tell them just because you have a record doesn’t mean anything. I make sure they know I don’t judge anybody. I’ve been through a lot. I’ve seen a lot.
I’ve been a pen pal for a couple women at Shakopee who I’ve never met in person. I’m going to visit their bootcamp. They know a guest is coming, but they don’t know it’s me. I can’t wait to surprise them and meet them.
You had to take a test to get the Peer Recovery Support Specialist certification. What’s that like?
I was very intimidated. I probably would not have passed that test if I had taken it before Recovery Corps. AmeriCorps helped set me up to pass. Once I passed that test, I was like, I’ve got this. I’m now forensic-endorsed and also a mental health coach.
Is there anything you’d say to someone considering serving with Recovery Corps?
It starts with AmeriCorps, and it really does. I can’t tell you how grateful I am. I’ll say it again, I would not be the Recovery Coach I am today without doing the two years I did in Recovery Corps.