For the last 3 years Bishara Addison has served as the Senior Manager over Policy and Strategic Initiatives at Towards Employment, a 42 year old workforce development organization that places over 500 individuals in full time employment every year, many of whom have criminal records. Her work in criminal justice reform started after moving to Washington, D.C. to attend George Washington University. While pursuing her B.A. degree in Political Science, she became involved in LIFT-DC which helps move families out of poverty and train young leaders for the future. As the Student Director of the D.C. office, she became steeped in volunteer training, management, and recruitment. After graduating in 2010 she and has dedicated her career to working with folks who face barriers to entering the labor market. Notably, during the latter part of 2012 and the spring of 2013, Bishara was engaged in a statewide advocacy effort to shape policies around collateral sanctions called OH SB 337. She provided 9 recommendations that created a tool called the Certificate of Qualification for Employment, a work-around for employers to hire individuals with records despite collateral sanctions written into State law. Of those recommendations, 7 of them were accepted into the bill. In 2015, Bishara served in a one year fellowship with CEO of the Cleveland School District then transitioned to a permanent position as the project manager in the District’s Strategy Implementation Office. Through the Cleveland School District, she was availed the opportunity to work on many projects connected to the District’s The Cleveland Plan- an effort by the City of Cleveland to transform public education in Cleveland. Notably, she helped to open two new innovative schools, closed two low performing schools, rolled out the districts non-union performance evaluation system as well as the Communicate with Heart customer service improvement strategy. She was also the lead project manager for a City-Wide campaign to reduce chronic absence. In that year, our campaign exceeded its goal and reduced chronic absenteeism by 11% in the 2015-16 school-year, resulting in over 2,400 more students on track with attendance compared to prior years.
She returned to Towards Employment in 2016 to focus on policy related to workforce and reentry including serving as the state lead on nonprofit education for the Ohio Ballot Issue 1 Campaign by 501c3 organizations of the potential impact of the amendment if passed on those with criminal records and how they could be involved. Towards Employment afforded her the opportunity to work on a fair hiring ordinance at the County level which removed the box on Cuyahoga County job applications that asks ‘have you ever been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor’ which was signed and has become an official practice. She also worked with the NELP and the Safer Foundation to convene hospitals on their fair hiring practices as it relates to hiring those with criminal records which led to one of the major hospitals in the region changing their hiring practices. Currently, she co-chairs a neighborhood based collaborative seeking to develop a model that leverages Federal WIOA dollars, using LODES data (a form of census data) to ensure that underemployed residents have access to technical training that lead to better paying jobs in NE Ohio opportunity occupations.
Outside of work, she has been involved with the African American Philanthropy Committee of the Cleveland Foundation which strives to educate and build the capacity of Cleveland’s African American community to give back and give strategically. In addition, she also served on the board, of Social Venture Partners Cleveland which embodies three crucial tenets: creative investments, commitment to solving social problems, and willingness to learn new innovative strategies. These tenets happen to be the three areas that most reflect this chapter of her life.