The announcement came Aug. 28 at the graduation for the first class of the job-readiness program called RISE.
“We do a lot here at San Quentin to teach job skills,” Warden Ron Davis said at the event. “There’s Dante’s program, coding and the machine shop. There’s a lot we do here to give you guys the skills to get a job and stay out.”
RISE aims to prepare incarcerated people how to interview for vocational jobs. However, it’s instructors like Callegari who give the men the training they need to be job-ready.
Last March, Chris Deragon walked out of San Quentin to a job at Community Housing Partnership with former San Quentin residents Dave Basile and Duane Holt. All three completed Callegari’s course.
“Every day we tell ourselves we don’t want to be in prison anymore,” Deragon said. “So we do our best to stay out. It’s the work that I did inside that’s prepared me for what I’m doing right now.”
Deragon said that Callegari’s presence was “like a father,” adding, “The opportunity to learn from him has fundamentally changed my life.” Deragon spent 22 years incarcerated.
Holt paroled from San Quentin about two years ago after spending more than two decades behind bars.
“When I was in Dante’s class, I learned work ethics,” Holt said. “Now I work with an at-risk population, like the homeless. I use the tools I learned in here every day out there to make myself successful.”
Claudius Winfrey, another successful Callegari student, accompanied Holt and Deragon.
Sean Luigs, owner of ELITE Supply Co., came to San Quentin about five years ago and met Callegari to “bridge the gap from inside here to outside there.”
Luigs and his business partner, Jon Schultz, created Ready Individuals for Successful Employment (RISE.)
Darrel Smith, 57, is a RISE graduate. He’s currently enrolled in Titans of CNC Academy, a Computer Numerical Control vocational machine shop.
After completing RISE, Andrew Wadsworth said, “I learned to speak from the heart. I don’t care what words you use, if it’s not from the heart, then it’s not real. The program is about you being yourself — about being human. This curriculum is so special.”
Schultz says the most valuable thing inmates learn is a good attitude, which makes the programs worth the money invested in them “Most of the folks are average normal guys, who I’d have beer with on the weekend,” he added.
Referring to the vocational job skills the men learned, Schultz said, “It’s not what would you expect. They go from not knowing anything to practicing and using their skills.”
Chris Martini of Central Sanitary Supply in Modesto learned about the RISE program and wanted to participate.
“I keep saying that I feel like I’m learning more than I’m helping,” Martini said. “The environment is fantastic. The program is very relevant to success and transitioning. Ultimately, the people I’ve met and everyone who wants to be in the program is so eager to learn. “I would absolutely, hire some of these men.”
“Interviewing for a job and making a resume are skills just as important as the skills in the programs,” Warden Davis said.
Deragon told the inmates, “Every day I get up at 4 o’clock in the morning and work till 6 p.m. It’s hard and frustrating, but I ask myself. Would I like to be frustrated out there or in here?”
Referring to Deragon, Warden Davis said, “Keep doing good, guys and you can be sitting right here with this cat.”
The RISE graduates were Darrel Smith, Kevin Sample, Andrew Wadsworth, Marco Villa, Juan Gonzalez, Ricky Gaines, Thang Tran and Tare Beltranchuc.