Turn90 Columbia: A Check-in With Program Manager Sarah Brown

When we opened the doors to Turn90 Columbia in October 2021, truth be told, we had no idea how it would go. We were confident we’d prepared as best we could. The staff was trained and ready, and the program participants were on time for class. But! This was our first time replicating our pilot prison reentry program. What were we missing that we didn’t even know about?

It turns out, there was plenty we didn’t know, and plenty of lessons to learn for our next expansion.

Still. Turn90 Columbia is more than we ever dreamed it could be. It’s served 18 men in the past four months, and a few participants are getting ready to become the first Columbia graduates. That being the case, we thought it was a great time to check in with our Columbia Program Manager, Sarah Brown, to see how things are really going up there.

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Sarah. You’re a Turn90 rock star!

So…how’s it going up there in Columbia?

I think it’s going really well. Every single day has been a day to learn something new, and that will only help the program be more successful. We’ve had hiccups, just because we’re a new program in the area, but every hiccup has been a learning opportunity for us.

What have the first few months been like?

The first few months have been both amazing and challenging. They’ve been filled with holiday celebrations (with some guys telling us this is the best holiday they’ve ever had), lots and lots of praise for positive behavioral changes, the building of lasting relationships, and even some moments that broke my heart. But overall, it’s been a wonderful few months, and I’m looking forward to the future and helping even more guys be successful and achieve their goals.

Read Columbia student Emanuel’s story here

What’s been your biggest challenge since opening the doors?

The biggest challenge that we’ve faced is getting into the groove: figuring out our style and what will work best for us when working with the guys. The only person who was on staff prior to opening the center in Columbia is Blue. So, for Deon, Beth, and me, it’s been a matter of finding our way. Sometimes that means changing the way we do things…and that’s ok, change is good. All we want is to make this program a success and help guys stay out of prison, so we’re always up for the challenge.

What’s been your proudest moment?

Sorry, I have two. One of my proudest moments happens when I’m doing case management and the guys come up with more pro-social ways to handle their problems and difficult situations. It means so much to me when they can put into action what they’ve learned in case management, the classroom, and the print shop. It means we’re reaching them and instilling in them the skills they need to manage life and never go back to prison.

My equally proud moment happened when Deon and I were out for three weeks with Covid. This Columbia and Charleston teams pulled together and didn’t miss a beat. The way everyone rallied so our participants didn’t miss any work or classroom time was truly inspiring.

What’s the greatest need you see for the program up there? Is there anything y’all are missing that we have down here in Charleston?

I think the greatest need and the only thing missing are resources: access to both potential program participants and Print Shop customers. We’re slowly but surely building our connections and relationships in Columbia, but it is definitely something that takes time.

So if anyone reading this knows someone in Richland or Lexington County who could use our program services, let us know! Or if you need custom-printed apparel, get a quote today!