The word “career” means a lot to Sherry Reese. For a long time, she thought that dream was out of reach – until she came to Tyson Foods.
“It’s different for someone like me who gets out of prison and is just like, ‘What am I gonna do? What am I gonna do? I have a family still. I messed up once. Ya know, what do I do?’”
After spending three years incarcerated, Sherry knew there would be great challenges – and limitations – to building a life post-prison. She found a job at a donut shop in San Antonio, Tex. alongside her husband, Marty. The owners were great, she said, but her felony conviction restricted her bargaining power. The hours were long, and the pay small. She had no insurance, no benefits.
“I was stuck,” Sherry said.
So, she started researching getting a pardon. A lawyer was too expensive; she’d have to tackle the process and paperwork herself.
She gathered character references and the necessary forms and submitted her petition with 15,000 signatures. One day, she got a letter.
“I didn’t believe it,” Sherry said. “I called the courthouse to confirm.” Sherry was one of only five chosen for a pardon. She immediately shared the news with the donut shop owners, and she and Marty gave their notice. They were heading to Oklahoma.
“We left [San Antonio] on June 29,2019 and started at Tyson Foods on July 8,” Sherry said. Sherry began her Tyson Foods journey as a formax operator, and Marty as a dockhand.
“I moved out here, and I was 45 years old. I never dreamed I’d actually have a career as a felon. Tyson gave me the chance. I started a career here,” Sherry said.
While finding a good paying job with benefits was what first drew Sherry to Tyson, what continues to amaze and excite her is the family she has found. She’s never felt judged, she said, or questioned about her past. Her fellow team members have always greeted her with support and encouragement, and she continues to find new opportunities and paths to grow.
“We’re all equal here, no matter what,” Sherry said. “I have a lot more opportunity, and my family has a lot more opportunity.”
In the nearly four years since Sherry and Marty joined Tyson Foods, they’ve worked as machine operators, a dockhand, a COVID-19 medical assistant, and as hourly assistant trainers. They both currently serve as orientation trainers for new hires – and Sherry is the first to tell everyone what Tyson Foods really offers.
“You can have a check, or you can have a career, whichever one you want,” she said. “But you can do so much more than just get a check. If you want a career, the sky’s the limit here. It really is.”
And Sherry is making moves. She participated in a panel event at World Headquarters during Women’s History Month in March 2022 alongside Amy Tu, Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer & Secretary for Global Governance and Corporate Affairs, and Gena Johnson Bumgarner, Vice President of customer development and co-chair of the Women’s Business Resource Group. She is now working on becoming a learning specialist, to help new hires, and show them all they can achieve at Tyson.
“I want to keep moving up, and I want my husband to keep moving up since he’s here, too. We push each other. I’m gonna stop moving up whenever I feel like I’m in my place.”
Providing opportunities to grow and thrive for team members is paramount at Tyson Foods. Earlier this year, we announced a milestone investment to provide free education for all U.S. team members through a partnership with Guild, expanding our current Upward Academy program to include access to more than 175 educational programs. Through the partnership, team members have the ability to attain a master’s, undergraduate and associate degrees, career certificates and literacy and technology fundamentals – all for free. Sherry and Marty have both enrolled in the program to further their education.
Free education is the latest example of our effort to invest in its team members. We’re also piloting subsidized and onsite childcare, as well as seven free, near-site health centers and ride-share programs. Explore more opportunities at Tyson Foods here.