Arzu Yetim Gives Back

24 July 2018

In 2016, after five years in New York State prison, Arzu Yetim was in a work-release program at Edgecombe Correctional Facility in Upper Manhattan. She was committed to returning and staying home and knew she needed to find a job to do that. Arzu enrolled in Osborne’s job training program and was an eager and focused participant from her first day.  

“The first thing she said to me was, 'I want to be a flagger,'" said program coordinator Jenny Santiago. Arzu says she had been interested in construction flagging since she was a child. “When I was little, I remember driving by the guys out there and telling my dad I wanted to do that someday.” Though Osborne didn’t offer flagger certification at the time, Jenny arranged funding to allow Arzu to complete a flagging certification course.

After working for two years in the field, Arzu is now a flagger supervisor and recommended to her employer that they fill new positions with Osborne graduates. But Arzu didn’t stop there. She made the long trip on a work day from her job site in central Brooklyn to our program graduation in the Bronx to interview graduates right after the celebration. To date, she has hired 12 Osborne graduates who have OSHA and flagging certifications to work on her crew. They are now working full-time and are gaining job site experience that can lead to additional construction career pathways.

Arzu (L) and Gypsy Porfirio (R) 

Arzu says she came back to Osborne because “everyone at Osborne is helpful and caring, and I wanted to give back. I called Jenny, and said we’re hiring flaggers… when you are incarcerated, it's like you are family. I want to raise them up with me; I’ll take your hand and lift you up with me.”

She expressed her appreciation of many Osborne staff she worked with during her program, mentioning that “Mr. G” (Henry Guiden) and Sharon Livingston both gave her insight and knowledge she still uses today. “Everybody at Osborne is really helpful, and they care. I actually felt human again when I went there. I used to love to go to the Bronx office, just to go there.”

It is clear how important it is to Arzu to contribute to the wider community. “I think I have a good heart, and I do want to help people. I’ve been in prison. I know how hard it is. It's so hard to find a job when they find out you have a background. If you tell them you were incarcerated, you are on the bottom of the list, the bottom of the barrel. Everyone comes ahead of you – even if you have experience. So I said you know what? I’m going to give people chances, too.”

“I got out, I got a job, and I believe that you always do what you want to do. If you put it in your mind that you want to do something, and you want to change your life around - you can do it. So that’s what I told those guys when I went to Osborne. And now they are all working, and they are happy. And I’m happy.”

Arzu and Gypsy show off their skills

Arzu was born in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. She grew up in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn and now lives in Bensonhurst. She’s a soft-spoken person, but her passion comes out quickly - you can’t help being pulled in by her story. Her son, who is at Nassau Community College, and sister live nearby, but much of her family lives in Istanbul, Turkey. She visits regularly. She loves to spend time outside, and her interests reflect that. She enjoys music, dancing, and spending time at the beach.

What does she see in her future? “I’ve thought about opening up my own flagging company.”