Interview: Gloria Morrison

Friday, September 16th, 2011 

Below is an edited transcript of Naima Ramos-Chapman's recent interview with Morrison, who graduated from high school and then went to technical school to learn how to repair computers.

She lives with her mother, 59, sister, 43, and niece, 19. She used to work between 22 and 27 hours delivering pizza but was laid off when her car stopped working and she could no longer get to her job. Her mother is retired and works part-time; her sister works at a title firm.

UPDATE: Less than three months since graduating from Wider Opportunities for Women’s Building Futures job training program, Gloria found a job with Local Sheet Metal Workers 100.  She is now on a career path with United Sheet Metal making $17 per hour as a first year apprentice.  Gloria can now depend on a steady wage and save money for the future.

How has it been to not be able to contribute to your family’s income?
It’s been tough on me, but I have gotten through it, and been getting through it just fine with the support system that my mother has. She is like my best friend so it hasn’t been too bad since I have a roof over my head and I have food and running water and stuff like that. It’s not that bad even though I would love to pull my weight around a little more around the house.

If you had to guesstimate how many resumes you sent out over the year, how many job interviews have you been on?
I have been to three or four job fairs and I have been putting out resumés after resumé. I would say for the whole year about 30 resumés. Just 15 application through the computer and a whole lot of giving money I get from my mother and been putting that out to ride the metro and stuff like that. Money that I didn’t really have to spend just to try and get somewhere.

How many interviews came about?
Since the Building Futures program (at Wider Opportunities for Women), I only had one interview...and I didn’t have any interviews before that. No one was calling back pretty much.

Why do you think that is?
Probably because of the economy. They put it out there and say that they are hiring but you know, I am not the most experienced person. I’m still young so I really haven’t had the opportunity to get my foot in the door to get experience other than just cashier or customer service or something like that.

What would you say is the biggest challenge being unemployed?
The biggest challenge I would have to say is knowing that my mother has bills to pay and I can’t help. She has helped me so much and I can’t help her.

If you could estimate the family income, who is working what would you say it was?
I would say she was making now with the retirement maybe $45 or $49,000 a year. My sister is making maybe the same amount, I’m not sure though. My niece, that little summer job is just for three months and that really isn't anything, though.

How has your family been doing since the recession?
We’ve been pulling it together. We’ve been making ends meet.

Have you been making any changes financially?
Definitely can’t eat out anymore. Definitely can’t do that. Less driving because of the gas being so high, no outings, nothing. Pretty much just hibernation in the house. We have a TV so we have something to do, maybe read a book.

Has this change your idea at all on the American Dream? What it meant to you at one point?
Yes. It’s very hard to attain unless you pick the right thing to do as soon as you get out of to college, which would be going to the military. You are not going to get an American Dream. That’s where I kick myself in the hindparts. I should have went straight into the military immediately.

Has this affected you emotionally, not your family, just you?
Yes, I mean it does hurt that I can’t do anything. i can’t pay for anything and then I’m not getting unemployment or anything like that. The only thing I can pay for is food, with the food stamps. Can’t even help with the electric, with no type of bill that I am surviving off as well and that is what really hurts me.

So what are your next steps?
Well, my next steps are to try and get into an apprenticeship after the Building Futures prepped me so well in my math.

Construction math?
Yes, construction math — blueprint reading, linear reading I’ve been prepped very well as far as that.

... I did want to add something about people who have criminal records, criminal backgrounds ... 

It’s been three and a half years now. I actually was trying to qualify for a security company, and I purchased my own firearms and ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time and, of course, I shouldn’t have taken it home, and I got locked up for it. It was only for four or five days I was locked up. But now I have a conviction on my record. I had a public defender ...

So was it for having a concealed weapon? Or, what was the charge?
It was for transporting. I live in Maryland and I was dropping a friend off in DC right before they lifted the gun ban so that’s why I ... got stuck with the charge. I am currently talking to an attorney to get my record expunged.

... I want to talk about people who (have) first offenses. You know, it's really hard for that person to get ahead.

So have you gone for jobs that require background checks, and do you feel like that’s been an issue? Sometimes they ask without checking? Do you always tell them?
I am always honest about it.

Do you see a change in their reaction?
Yes, because I don’t get the call back, pretty much. Every application you have to fill out, you know, you have to check that box that yes, that you have been convicted of a felony because it isn’t a misdemeanor. It’s a transporting charge. God willing, I can get a job soon to pay the attorney waiting, just sitting on the edge of the seat, just waiting for me to come with the money so that I can get it off my record. That held me back from the military as well because I went in 2009 to enroll in the National Guard and that’s what held me back. And it was a felony, and I don’t think they were doing waivers at that time.I couldn’t get the waiver but I know that they told me if I had it expunged, I would be good to go. You can go into the military up until 35 or 37.

So you would like to get in there as soon as possible?
Soon as possible.

Do you have anything else to add as far as first offenses?
Just give us a second chance. My crime wasn't violent at all, and I have never been in trouble before or after so give us a chance. It hurts, it really hurts. I got that little slap on the wrist, got the probation got all of that done and it wasn’t a problem. I am not a menace to society. Just give me a chance to show you that I’m not.

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