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Hope is...Meet the Staff and BoardStand in the GapWomen in Transition

New Staff Feature: Meet Alisha

By February 26, 2024March 20th, 2024No Comments

Alisha Stanley

Alisha Stanley started at Stand in the Gap in January, and she has already become such an integral part of our team. We are excited to welcome her on as the Women in Transition program assistant, working with Rhonda in Tulsa to form relationships with different churches and provide valuable research and statistics for our prison education curriculum. Alisha is a mother to three beautiful children. She was incarcerated for two years, and met Rhonda Bear while in prison. She has walked through the Women in Transition mentoring program, and is currently pursuing her second Master’s degree. She has big dreams when it comes to justice reform, and I got the chance to sit down and hear her heart and her story.

How did you find your way to Stand in the Gap Ministries?

I participated in the Women in Transition program when I was in Rhonda Bear’s His House ministries and when I worked at Shebrews. I started as a neighbor, and then this summer, Rhonda messaged me and asked me if I would want to work for Stand in the Gap. Her dream was to work part-time, helping her network with churches and try to find more mentors to support the ladies. I had already kind of been suggesting neighbors to her, because I was teaching a 12-step at the Exodus house. I would meet people who I thought would love to have a Stand in the Gap team.

Throughout the summer, she wanted to get me to come on to be her assistant. She’s pulled in all different directions, and there are not enough hours in the day to do all of it. She wanted me to come up with some new vision and new ideas, and help with the curriculum to provide statistics. I am really passionate about justice reform, and a lot of the papers I have written for school have focused on incarceration and trauma. That is a whole different type of trauma that I don’t think the textbooks give a very good map or description for. It’s just something that is on my heart, and Rhonda incorporated it into my role at Stand in the Gap.

What has it been like working on a second Masters? What inspired that?

I was a school teacher for 10 years, and I went ahead and got my masters in school counseling. The whole time I was teaching, I wanted to continue my education. I didn’t want to stop with being a teacher, but as a single mom with two kids, going back to school just took a little bit more time. I was in my 20s when I was teaching and going back to school, and I just didn’t know what my purpose was or what I was going to enjoy doing for the rest of my life. I just taught because I wanted to spend time with my kids in the summer and be off at 3 o’ clock to pick them up from day care. When I was doing my masters, they had a school counselor route and an LPC route. I didn’t look into what becoming an LPC entailed, so I went ahead and chose the school counselor route. Now that I have been to prison, I cannot use that school counselor degree or certificate at all.

Rhonda encouraged me when I was in her program to go to RSU and go back to school.  I felt very defeated because I had two degrees I had never used. I was scared to go back to school and spend more time and money. I was torn, but Rhonda has great discernment, and she never tells me to do anything for no reason, so I just enrolled. They have a community counseling masters program that they just started, and I am in the second cohort, so I’ll graduate in May.

You just have door after door shut in your face. It does not matter to most of the public in the professional world what you have done with your life. I will always be up front and honest about my story with people I interview with. I’ll always be honest about my background, and I’ll get hired- I’ll even get an offer and think I’m starting in a week. But once HR runs my background check, they will reach out and rescind my offer. Every. Single. Time. So it’s really really hard to get a job no matter how much education you have.

How would your friends describe you?

They would say I am very very disciplined. Rhonda says I’m very competitive. I speak my mind, and I am blunt. 

What is one item you can’t live without?

Werther’s originals… if I run out, ill go get some in the middle of the night.

What is your idea of a perfect Saturday?

My perfect Saturday… it depends.  If it is a Saturday in the winter, I enjoy not going out, staying in my pajamas, eating good food, and watching movies. If it is a Saturday in the Summer, I enjoy going for a long run. I enjoy training for races. I do 5Ks, and I am working towards running a marathon.

Where is home for you?

Home is a little town called Madille, OK. I lived there my whole life, until I graduated from high school. My parents and both sets of grandparents, all my aunts and uncles, and all my cousins are there. My family has been there for over 100 years. It’s right on Lake Texoma. There is really nothing else there. We are like 7 or 8 miles from the Texas border.

What do you value? What do you believe shaped those values?

Values have changed as my life experiences have changed. I was taught to value family first, and then value hard work. Because hard work was of such high value in my family, the standard was set really high for me. That kind of turned me into a perfectionist. As I have gotten older, my values have shifted from my parent’s values to my own. I really value being honest, being who you are no matter what- staying true to yourself,  family, and God. He is the number one thing in my life now. I also really value time- that is something that changed. Having gone through years where time was taken from me. I really really value my time, and I don’t like to squander it. I am very intentional about who I give my time to now.

What is your favorite bible verse?

Since I got out of prison, my favorite verse Joel 2:25. It represents a promise that I am still holding on to, and I believe this is what God said to me when I got out of prison.

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten— the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm- my great army that I sent among you. You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed.”

What are you most looking forward to when it comes to being involved in WIT?

I’m most looking forward to learning. I have a lot that I want to do- I have big dreams and a vision of what I have always wanted, which is for everybody in Oklahoma to get to experience the things I have gotten to experience. My sister lives down in Texas and always tells me about how they need Stand in the Gap down there. I want everybody to have access to things like this, because it’s life changing. I want to learn and develop alongside Rhonda, and see everything that is Stand in the Gap is doing like Life Launch and Stand in the Gap for Widows. There are so many things we could all do if everybody links up and connects and shares all the right resources. Tulsa has so many amazing nonprofits who are all wanting to help these populations.

If you could pick anyone in the world today to be your mentor, who would it be and why?

I think I have the best mentor already! Rhonda! She has a heart for the things I have a heart for. My situation and what I am hoping and waiting on god for, and where I see my purpose in life- not very many people understand those obstacles. It’s just complex with not having my children- being a mom but not getting to parent my kids. It’s just so much, and not very many people can understand it, so I am reluctant to work and share with people that honestly don’t understand what goes on in my everyday life. She gets all that. I need a mentor that has been down the road I’ve been down, grieved the losses like I have grieved, and still come out on the other side. She has poured into me. I want to know the things that she has figured out, and I want to work with the different populations that she is working with.

What would you say to a woman who is on the fence about doing Stand in the Gap’s Women In Transition program?

“It is a privilege to get a team. We don’t have enough mentors for everyone to have a Stand in the Gap family. You have been selected, and it’s a privilege for people to consider you part of their family and a part of their life and to give you a year of their life. It takes a lot for people to come together- especially people who don’t know one another. You are going to have support that’s unbiased. It’s different than your mom and dad, different than Rhonda, different than anyone. They are only here to help you because they care- they are not trying to get something out of it.

How does it work when the year of guided mentorship is up?

That’s funny you ask that, because I met with my Stand in the Gap family after church yesterday for lunch. There wasn’t even enough time for us to talk about every question. We couldn’t even get it all in, because so much has happened with everyone, and with me. They know all about my life and they had so many questions- we weren’t ready to go. After the year is up, it looks different, because during that year when you’re meeting with them, they are kind of harder on you. You’re not going to get away with not answering their text messages. You’re not going to get away with not meeting with them. They ask you hard questions, and they hold you accountable to things. They are holding you accountable to things that you might not want to face. Those meetings weren’t that enjoyable, and I tried to get out of them a lot. But my mentors have always been so present. One of my mentors and her husband taught my son how to ride a bike. They would help with my kids. They treated us like I was their daughter, and Maddox was their grandchild. Now, they genuinely want to know what is going on in my life- whether we are meeting twice a year or every month. They are like family now. It’s people that you can count on forever- they will never not answer their phone.

You mentioned you were passionate about justice reform, and you have experience with discrimination in the workforce in your re-entry process. What would you say to a company who is on the fence about hiring someone with a criminal record?

I have a lot to say… I was the worst employee before I ever got in trouble. I would call in and miss work. When I was a school teacher, I would leave in the middle of the school year and go find another job. I was the worst employee ever. Now, things are so different. Like I mentioned before, I value time a lot more. I wish other people would see that we don’t hold things over people’s heads for 10 or 15 years. People do change, and if we don’t believe people change- why do we have mental healthcare? All these businesses that are built on the belief that people change and get better. People that have a record value someone giving them a shot. They value being able to have a purpose and go to work every day. That is something that brings people purpose in life. People that have a background and that have probation time hanging over their head- if they do one thing wrong, they go back and the judge can make them redo their entire sentence. So no, they are not going to steal your money, and they are not going to do unethical things. they are going to appreciate being given a shot and they are going to value that because that is the only thing they can rely on to move up. They don’t have other things to rely on- it’s just their work ethic.