For Sodiqa Williams, helping rebuild Chicago’s most vulnerable communities is personal.
Williams has dedicated her career to social justice, equity and reducing recidivism throughout Chicago’s West and South Sides, predominantly in seven communities where there are high levels of unemployment, poverty and violence.
“I’ve learned that I can help others who have been through experiences like myself,” said Williams. “My former partner, who is the father of two of my children, is incarcerated. When we were together, to see what he went through trying to get a job with a felony, it was humiliating and just one brick wall after another.”
As the General Counsel and Vice President of External Affairs at Safer Foundation, a nonprofit that helps returning residents avoid recidivism, Williams seeks to break that cycle by helping people with arrest and conviction records find employment.
This holistic approach seeks to disrupt the cycle of social injustices in society through a series of building blocks that helps people get back on their feet and ultimately build better lives, stronger families and safer communities.
Safer Foundation provides job training and placement, education assistance, behavioral health services, housing, community engagement and policy and advocacy support. They also help people get IDs, update their resumes, complete their high school equivalency diploma and search for a transitional job or permanent employment.
“We have been a leader in the fight to break down barriers and provide people with records the opportunity for second chances,” Williams said. “We support over 5,000 men and women between the ages of 18 and 35, but we also serve older individuals and some youth, all who are trying to gain employment each year.”
One of those employment opportunities is through Safer Foundation’s Safer Demand Skills Collaborative (SDSC) program for the Financial and Banking Industry program. Supported by partners like Capital One, that program works to provide formerly incarcerated citizens with employment in the financial services industry.
“We believe socioeconomic mobility starts from a place of inclusion,” says Dave Kucera, Capital One Chicago Market President. “Companies must take a stand on critical social issues facing communities and advocate for equal treatment and opportunity of groups and individuals in order to drive meaningful change. We believe it’s our responsibility to leverage our scale and resources, and the ingenuity and empathy of our associates, to help foster a world where everyone has an equal opportunity to prosper.”
Capital One seeks to close gaps in equity through the Capital One Impact Initiative — Capital One’s recent commitment to support local organizations like Safer Foundation through a $200 million, five-year national commitment to support growth in underserved communities.
Williams has witnessed the power of equal treatment and opportunity through Safer Foundation’s partnership with Capital One.
“Capital One’s support demonstrates its commitment to equip those who need second chances with the proper resources to build strong pipelines for success,” Williams says. We have to continue that work and commit to be inclusive in order to diversify the workforce. That starts with a partnership like this with Capital One that gives all people a real chance.”