our EVOLUTION

We’ve evolved from wanting to make a difference, to making a difference in the lives of those who have earned a SECOND OPPORTUNITY.

When Augie Ghilarducci found himself isolated in “the hole” in Minnesota’s Sandstone federal prison due to a false accusation, he had nothing but time to think.

In the first 10 months of his nearly 13-year prison term leading up to the isolation, Augie had been angry and bitter, blaming others for his troubles and justifying the series of bad decisions he had made that led to his conviction for investment fraud. But, clearly, that attitude wasn’t getting him anywhere. As he reflected on his life during his month in the hole, his self-pity was slowly replaced by acceptance, and he realized that he could move forward and emerge from this experience a better man. When an officer handed him clothes to return to the general prison population, Augie was determined to use every bit of his knowledge, experience, and pain to help others.

Serving time gave Augie a clear perspective on the prison system and how desperately things needed to change. He saw inmates struggling to read, understand important legal correspondence, and perform essential financial tasks like budgeting, balancing a checkbook, paying taxes, and saving for the future. Men and women were leaving the system woefully unprepared to reenter society and build a new life for themselves and their families. It’s no wonder so many failed and ended up back in prison.

Despite his formal education and success owning and operating a financial-planning and business-consulting firm, Augie was worried about his own future, too. He would be 57 years old when he was released from prison, and he had no desire to go back to the type of work he was doing before.

To find some direction, he started setting short- and long-term goals for himself and creating worksheets to help him map out a plan for employment, reconnect with others, and encounter the unknowns. Before long, he was using the materials to instruct fellow inmates, eventually developing an entire program and workbook that taught employment readiness and other crucial life skills. He chased down a prison staff member in charge of education, who let him convert a big, abandoned area in the law library into a classroom and gave him free rein to run any classes he wanted. Augie used his own money to create signs and prepare handouts on a 50-year-old IBM typewriter.

Eight guys showed up for the first class, and once word got out, “Mr. Ghilarducci’s class” was always full, with a minimum of 30 students for the next 12 years. It wasn’t that these guys didn’t want to learn, Augie realized – it was that learning in the traditional sense didn’t work for some of them. His material and style resonated with them. It wasn’t long before prison officials took notice of the impact the program was having and gave it their stamp of approval, eventually making it mandatory for those in the prison’s drug treatment program.

Augie had the opportunity to impact the lives of people outside the prison, too. The warden placed him in a community outreach program that allowed him to go into high schools, colleges, universities, and business groups to share the lessons he had learned from his ethical failures.

In July 2017, Augie was released from prison and returned to Chicago. Less than 6 months later, he was invited to Chicago’s Cook County jail – one of the nation’s largest – to share his story and teach his programs. Thanks to a series of fortuitous events, he was also introduced to businessman Dan Effrein. A recovered alcoholic who had overcome his own set of challenges, Dan believed that Augie’s hope-inspiring message would resonate with a broader audience and saw the need to make his programs available to nonprofits and government agencies. Together, they formed 2nd Opportunity, an organization dedicated to empowering those dealing with incarceration, addiction, trauma, loss, and other life-changing circumstances to break the chains of the past and build a positive future.

Today, Augie shares his programs five days a week in jails and prisons, substance abuse recovery centers, halfway houses, probation departments, workforce development organizations, and with at-risk youth groups. They are available online, on tablets, and soon as part of a reentry app, poised to reach several hundred thousand individuals within the next 6 months.

2nd Opportunity is already making a meaningful difference, but it’s just getting started. Stay tuned for more.