Margate Graduate Becomes Published Author, Inspires Others to Overcome
Today, one can accurately describe George Sullivan using one or more of a variety of labels: graduate, manager, storyteller, entrepreneur, author and mentor.
Things were different for him back in May of 2018, however. In sudden need of a job and in pursuit of better education, George was driven by the desire to shake one label he feared would define him and, in turn, hold him back from his dream of starting a business: ex-convict.
“I knew I wanted to get into the business field, but I didn’t think going to school would be an option for me because of my criminal record,” said George, 43, who in the spring of 2018 had just been released after serving 17 years in prison. “My idea was to go get a bunch of books on business, like ‘How to Start a Business for Dummies,’ and just do a ton of reading.”
But, when he was applying for health services during his transition back into the real world, he happened to stumble across information about Florida Career College (FCC). Two months later, he was taking his first classes within FCC’s Business Office Administration Program.
Despite encountering some difficulties along the way, George graduated from the program the following year. This educational journey gave him the confidence to not only establish secure employment, but to also pursue his dream of becoming a writer and one day opening his own publishing businesses.
“When I got out, going back to school wasn’t my original intention at all,” George said. “But, my certificate from FCC has helped me out a lot. I probably wouldn’t be where I am today without the support I got from the people and students at FCC.”
Searching for a Sense of Belonging
When you do a book search for “George Sullivan” on Amazon, one of the titles that comes up is “The Last Royal Messenger.” Preview the back cover of this book, and you get a glimpse of George’s background.
“…George was born and raised in the state of New Jersey,” it begins. “Spending so much of his young life in foster care, group homes and detention centers, there was no place he felt he belonged. Never having the chance to truly bond and connect, lacking ways to express himself, George fell into a world of his own make believe to keep a sense of sanity.”
Writing became his way of connecting with himself while dealing with the realities of his early life’s struggles.
“I was shy and antisocial,” he said. “I wasn’t able to express myself verbally. Writing helps me express myself without interference — without being interrupted or in situations where you’re too scared to express what you feel and think to other people. It’s a release for me.”
It also provided him with focus, a trait that came in handy when he was released from prison at the age of 40. In need of a job, he quickly sought out assistance acquiring identification, filling out applications, connecting to the internet, and accessing services to help him get by during the transition.
Within two months, he’d secured two jobs — one in construction, and one at a fast-food chain — with plans to begin attending FCC Margate that summer.
Culture of Support at FCC
Attending FCC while working two jobs and having limited transportation options felt overwhelming at times, George said. He’d often show up to classes late, or miss them entirely, because of work conflicts or an inability to find a ride to campus.
Sometimes, he just wanted to quit. But, FCC Margate Education Director, Dalis Cruz, wouldn’t let that happen.
“I went to her sometimes and said, ‘I can’t do this.’” George said. “But, she’d say, ‘You’ve already started. You’ve been coming, you’re showing interest and you’re still doing good. Why stop now?’”
Dalis helped George work through his issues with transportation, and occasionally classmates stepped up to give him rides to class.
“The other students were always, ‘Just tighten up. You’ve made it this far. Keep going!” he said.
This encouragement, motivation and assistance was what George needed to make it through classes and eventually graduate with his Business Office Administration diploma. He quickly found a full-time management position at Tank Depot, and he’s since written and published a fantasy novel with plans to start his own publishing business.
“George is an excellent example of why we do what we do,” Dalis said of her former student. “He has become an inspiration and leader in the community. We are thrilled that he wants to come back to campus on a regular basis to coach, train and mentor our students.”
Inspiring and helping others is a role George embraces. From motivating other former prisoners to seek temp employment and education opportunities following release, to encouraging friends to express themselves through writing and possibly publishing their stories, George said he wants to step up the way the FCC faculty stepped up for him.
“I met several people through a temp service who were just being released,” he said. “I told them I know it’s hard, especially with their background and if they don’t have anybody out there to give them that push. I didn’t have it at the time, but I found it. And, I encourage them to move forward so they can find that support, as well.”