A recent afternoon was another in a long string of rainy and grey days. But that Friday, inside the Imani House it was a different story altogether. Here the atmosphere was charged with a joyous energy, a sense of expectation and excitement.
Nearly every seat in the main activity room was taken but for the five seats of honor at the front of the room. These were the seats saved for the graduates of ReEngage, an intensive program to prepare its participants for taking a job, another step in a life of sobriety and stability.
Dressed for the Occasion
When they entered, the five graduates were dressed for the occasion – suits and dresses, every detail in perfect order. They took their seats at the front of the room and one of them, Tamika Estes, blinked away tears.
“This program made me a better person for my family, my church, my community,” she said. “It helped me be a better parent, be responsible, be determined and never give up. I learned to love myself without drugs. I learned that I am worthy.” Her eyes were full of tears again. “I am so grateful.”
How ReEngage Works
Over the course of three weeks, the ReEngage program challenges its participants to accept themselves and accept responsibility for their lives. Through daily meetings and assignments, the class works hard to break down negative feelings, deal with anger and frustration, and adopt tools to help make decisions for future success.
A primary tenet of the program is the difference between being a male and a man, a female and a woman, explains Rodney Knott, founder and executive director of ReEngage. The program also offers employment training, pre-employment screening, interviewing skills, mentoring, OSHA certification, referrals and support groups.
At the graduation, Rodney delivered a rousing talk. “There is hope for those who think there is no hope. There is always hope if you believe. It’s in here,” he said, pointing to his heart. The audience clapped, nodded and cheered in agreement.
The five participants are the third class referred by the Imani House staff. All had completed the Imani House program, as well as an after-care program. All had maintained sobriety for at least 28 days, said Sandra McMurtrey, Case Manager at Imani House.
The Graduating Class
Along with Tamika, the other members of the graduating class are Kimberly Happy, Arisha Logan, Kentrell Spikes and Demetrius Wilson.
“They endured and stayed with it,” Sandra said. “Now, we hope they will be an inspiration to other Imani House graduates.”
Tamika has embraced the challenge. “I want to help people like I have been helped,” she said. “My goal is to be a certified peer specialist. I’d love to come here to work.”
The goal will require completing her GED and then community college, staying drug free throughout.
Helping Graduates Find Work
As part of the ReEngage program, Rodney helps his graduates find work. Already, two of the five are starting jobs with a local manufacturer at a rate of $17 an hour. Others are pursuing opportunities for careers, like an earlier graduate and Imani House alumni Tara Anderson.
“I now have the knowledge of gaining a career instead of just a job,” she said. “My chances for a better future for my family and myself are improved from the lessons I learned. The program has opened up new opportunities for me. This class has improved my spirit and allowed me to open my heart to others. What I received from the ReEngage program were self-dignity and respect.”
ReEngage is part of a Workforce Development Program at Imani House, 3950 E. 51st St., Kansas City. Imani House is Swope Health’s outpatient treatment venue offering services to those dealing with issues stemming from alcohol or drug abuse. Imani House – named for the Swahili word for “faith” – provides services to more than 500 people each year.
If you or someone you know struggles with substance use, please visit or contact Swope Health’s Behavioral Health team at (816) 922-1070 for an appointment.