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Blog Home > CEO Joe Jones Sits Down for Q&A With Kaiser Associates Intern Leemor Nir
CEO Joe Jones Sits Down for Q&A With Kaiser Associates Intern Leemor Nir
[Excerpt from Citybizlist Baltimore]

The road to becoming the founder and CEO of CFUF was a long one for you. Tell us about some of your early experiences growing up in Baltimore.

As a very early age, my mother and father separated and divorced. I fell through the cracks and ended up doing thinfs that I probably would not have done. I developed new associations with guys who were a few years older, doing things that I had not been exposed to. They were having sec, doing drugs, committing crimes...the first thing that I ever did outside of my norm was injecting heroin when I was thirteen years old. I didn't smoke marijuana. I didn't drink alcohol. I went straight to shooting heroin. The first ime i was incarcerated I was fourteen years old. My mother decided to leave me here in jail for the weekend and teach me a lesson. When I went to juvenile court, the judge said, "Well if you left him here there must have been an issue that you need help with," so he sent me to a facility for juvenile offenders.

Was that a turning point for you?

I wish that it were a turning point for me. I did get my GED later on and used that as a basis for getting hired at the Social Security Administration. But by that time, I was twenty-two, heavy in the drug game, in and out of treatment facilities and had a son out of wedlock. I eventually left Social Security Administration to work for the railroad, which was one of the worst things that I could've done, because I was making more money than I had ever had access to, legally, and I was just simply injecting most of the profits into my arm.

In 1986, I acrrued new charges, which prompted me to request entrance to a drug treatment program in order to increase my chances of suspending my sentence. The treatment was on the ground floor of Spring Grove State Hospital. I knocked on the door and found out they had a six-month waiting list, but I said do what you want to do but I'm not leaving. And it just so happened that the chef at the center lived in my neighborhood. He convinced them to let me in, and that was a turning point for me. I stayed a year and used that as a basis for moving forward, getting my my sentence dismissed and deciding to go to community college.

At what point, what were you considering as career options?

One day, while talking about career choices, I said something about accounting. Somebody then responded that I was too dumb to succeed in accounting. I said, oh, okay. I'm too dumb. So I decided to pursue an associate's degree in accounting, with vigor. The same energy and focus I put on the street, I put into that. I graduated as the top student in the class. But the reality was that I had a long criminal so I couldn't do much with an accounting degree. I had to be realistic.

I ended up getting a job with a non-profit that had some contracts with the city, and parlayed that into a position at the Baltimore City Health Department working on HIV and AIDS education.

Read the rest of the story here »
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