Kevin Walsh: From LifeWorks! intern to program director

LifeWorks! Program Director Kevin Walsh and NC Attorney General Josh Stein

Kevin Walsh is the epitome of a second chance success story. A decade ago, following his release from prison, he had mandated weekly visits with a federal probation officer. Today, that same probation officer is referring clients to Kevin at LifeWorks!, where he was recently promoted to program director. 

In just 5 years, Kevin’s journey with the Center for Community Transitions has come full circle. While working on his bachelor’s degree in human services at Gardner-Webb University, he set out looking for an internship. But time and time again, his previous incarceration and related charges were a huge barrier for potential employers. 

“I went out cold calling to a ton of places but kept getting turned down. Then I went to the CCT office and said to the guy at the front desk, ‘Look, I just want to cut to the chase. I’ve got a criminal background and nobody’s giving me an internship. Do you take people with criminal backgrounds for interns?’”

The receptionist brought Kevin to see Erik Ortega, then LifeWorks! program director. He shared his story with Erik and by the end of their conversation, Kevin had an internship. He spent the semester doing admin work, sorting and giving out clothes and helping with food referrals.  

“They didn’t have any job openings when my internship ended, so I asked if I could continue to volunteer,” he said. “I’d help out with orientation and wherever I could, and then a part-time position opened as an admin for the Work First program.”

During that time, Kevin was continuing to make ends meet by running his own handyman business and working at New Beginnings as a substance abuse counselor. Once his CCT position evolved to full time, he began working his way up through the organization and held many positions: volunteer coordinator, veterans’ representative, substance abuse coordinator, client advisor, class facilitator, Working Smart master trainer, senior client advisor/DSS coordinator and interim program director. 

Now LifeWorks! program director, Kevin said he’s eager for CCT to start getting the community recognition it deserves. 

“We’re the best thing in town when it comes to reentry and I want the community to know that,” he said. “I want to create more opportunities for our clients and I want to change the perception that society has of people with criminal backgrounds.”

With his former life of “selfishness and self-centeredness” long behind him, Kevin said these days, he’s all about giving back.

“It’s just been amazing how things have worked out in my life. And it’s been about doing the next right thing,” he said. “I’ve been given a lot of opportunities and second chances and I’ve had a lot of doors open for me. And it’s cool when I see it happen for somebody else. I love being able to instill hope in others.”

Other CCT staffing news

Lauren Starnes is the new LifeWorks! administrative assistant. The former intern graduated in May and was hired in a temporary position that turned into full time. Also joining CCT in a full-time capacity is Dana Campbell, 1st shift program assistant for the Center for Women. Congratulations Lauren and Dana!