New Citizens Program provides second chances

On December 17, 2021, Hamilton Center graduated another “new citizen” from a program that offers the opportunity to acquire job skills, employment, and a new way of life.

“The enormity and the complexity of skills I have developed are only comparable to the 4 years of college I completed while serving my sentence.” – Jason Wentz, Hamilton Center New Citizen Program graduate.

Hamilton Center’s New Citizen Program, first established in 2013, gives individuals who have been incarcerated the tools needed for a second chance at life.  Throughout a one-year probationary period, participants train in different areas of the Corporation to gain skills and experience to secure a permanent career at Hamilton Center.  In addition to job skills, participants gain life skills as they work through challenges of reintegration into their communities with a team of mentors that meet with them weekly.

“Once an individual has paid their debt to society, they should be imparted the opportunity to restore and build upon their lives.” – Melvin L. Burks, President/CEO, Hamilton Center, Inc.

The opportunity is life changing for someone who has been involved in the criminal justice system and is willing to turn his or her life around.  The program offers support from Hamilton Center staff and community leaders to bring confidence and motivation to someone who is willing to become a new citizen.

“The New Citizen Program has made a lasting impression on my life, having provided me with the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream of working both in IT and mental health.  I have expanded my knowledge of computers and technology and received hands-on experience and training in the IT Department.  I have not only earned a permanent position as an IT Support Representative, but I am continuing my training and working towards additional certifications in the field,” Wentz stated.

The New Citizen Program is about supporting those who have made decisions that could negatively affect the rest of their lives.  Hamilton Center has made it possible for these individuals to have a second chance, to start a new life, and to travel down a supported path to success.

“I feel a sense of accomplishment, having set a goal, working diligently towards achieving it, and ultimately attaining it,” said Wentz.  “I am humbled by the blessing I was given just getting a chance to prove myself, and I am beyond joyed to find myself in a position where I am helping people each and every day.”

Hamilton Center welcomes additional host sites and participants for the New Citizen Program. To learn more, visit, or call (812) 231-8323.

New Citizens Program provides second chances

“I am living a life I never wanted”, said a recent graduate of Hamilton Center’s New Citizen Program. “I’m living a life I never knew I could have,” said Mike Hambright. 

On July 2, 2021, Hamilton Center graduated another “new citizen” from a program first established in 2013 to give individuals who have been incarcerated, the tools needed get a second chance at life.  For the first seven years of the program, the organization focused on building the program internally. Participants completed a one-year probationary period where they trained in four different areas of the Corporation to gain skills and experience to secure a permanent job/career at Hamilton Center.  In addition to job skills, participants gained life skills as they worked through challenges of reintegration into their communities with a team of mentors that met with them weekly.

Recently, the program has expanded to other corporations who expressed interest in participating.  Wabash Valley Asphalt, now called Milestone Contractors South, was one of those companies that stepped up to bring the New Citizen Program to their business. For the past year, a new citizen has learned a skilled trade at Wabash Valley Asphalt.  On Friday July 2, a graduation ceremony was held.  The graduated New Citizen, Mike Hambright, was filled with pride and gratitude, not just for the opportunity to have a second chance, but also for the opportunity to grow, better himself and give back.

“For the last year I have been working with the committee from the Hamilton Center to be a better version of myself. They gave me an opportunity by working with a union company to give me a shot at a career. Since being with Milestone, I have been learning and growing in a skilled trade. Here I have a pension, and benefits. If not for the Hamilton Center’s New Citizens program I don’t know what I would be doing right now,” Hambright stated.

“I’ve decided to pursue the Union Career and continue to grow and better myself. Through this program, it’s given Hamilton Center, Milestone and myself an opportunity to give back to the community. I am proud of this accomplishment and look forward to guiding the next candidate and being a leader,” he said.

Since Wabash Valley Asphalt joined the program, Hamilton Center has also been proud to welcome other corporations to the partnership.  Hamilton Center is grateful for the interest to those companies and others who play a significant role in helping reduce recidivism, including other employers who are willing to hire workers notwithstanding a criminal history.

“At some point in life, every one of us needs a second chance to recover from a mistake; and usually, we get that chance.” said Melvin L. Burks, Hamilton Center’s CEO.  “These individuals have paid their debt to society and deserve a second chance,” he said. “Not only will they benefit, but it will strengthen families and our entire community.”

Hamilton Center welcomes additional host sites and participants for the New Citizen Program. To learn more, visit, or call 812-231-8323.

Hamilton Center, Inc. Takes Stake in the Lives of At-risk Youth

Brings new Achievement Mentoring Program to Vigo County Juvenile Detention Center

Hamilton Center has been awarded $18,860 by the United Way of the Wabash Valley to create an evidence-based mentoring program at the Vigo County Juvenile Detention Center. The program will target youth grades 4-11 utilizing Achievement Mentoring. The program will focus on a number of areas including decreasing student dropout, improving grades, increasing school attendance, decreasing discipline referrals, decreasing juvenile arrests, reducing drug and alcohol use, and increasing employment. The program is implemented in the school, in the community, and at the detention center and designed to link and coordinate resources for these youth while in treatment preparing them for release and reentry in the community.

“This program is proven to reduce problem behaviors, improve academics, and reduce drug and alcohol,” said, Brock Lough, Executive Director of School Service at Hamilton Center. “If we wish to address some of the county’s significant health and substance abuse concerns, we must focus not only on treatment but also prevention.”

Students meet with mentors weekly who receive weekly “report cards” that offer feedback from teachers on such items as attendance, classroom behavior, & academic achievements. In addition, mentors participate in weekly interviews with students’ teachers, complete a 1-hour consultation/coaching session each month with a Center for Supportive Schools (CSS) consultant and maintain contact with each student’s caregivers & provide ongoing positive feedback & encouragement as earned.

“It is our responsibility to offer these students who are deemed to be at risk for dropping out of high school, whether through school failure, poor attendance, &/or behavior problems need, the opportunity to get back on track.” said, Melvin L Burks, CEO of Hamilton Center, Inc. “These young people need consistent services from caring and supportive staff.”

Hamilton Center, Inc. is a regional behavioral health system in Central and West Central Indiana with corporate offices located in Terre Haute, IN.  Services are provided to children, youth and adults, with specialized programs for expectant mothers, infants, and people who may be struggling with stress, life changes, or relationship issues as well as more serious problems such as depression, anxiety disorders, and serious mental illnesses.

For questions or inquiries about services call (812)-231-8323 or visit