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Thought Leaders & Presenters

Augie Ghilarducci

Augie knows what it is like to need a second chance. After owning and operating a successful financial planning firm for several years, he made a series of bad decisions that led to him being convicted of white-collar crimes. He ended up serving nearly 13 years in the Minnesota Federal Prison system. While incarcerated, Augie decided to make the best out of his experience. The warden hand-selected him to participate in a community outreach program where he spoke at high schools, colleges, and businesses about his ethical failures. During his decade of speaking arrangements, he developed various life skills and employment-readiness programs that he taught to fellow inmates. 

 

Once released, he turned his passion into a second career by empowering those dealing with incarceration, addiction, trauma, loss, and other life-changing events. As the founder and CEO of 2nd Opportunity, Augie now shares his proprietary programs five days a week in jails, prisons, substance abuse recovery centers, halfway houses, probation departments, workforce development organizations, and with at-risk youth groups. He has also made them available online and as part of a re-entry app.

 

Augie’s other current projects include:

 

  • Consulting with Heartland Alliance’s “Onboard Chicago” initiative

  • Speaking with employer groups about the benefits of hiring people with criminal backgrounds

  • Acting as Director of Housing and Employment for Above and Beyond Family Recovery Services

  • Serving on the Governing Board of “Never Fully Free: The Campaign to End Permanent Punishments,” the Board of Directors of Victorious Living Magazine, and the Community Engagement Committee of the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety + Justice Challenge

  • Serving as a member of the Restoring Rights & Opportunities Coalition of Illinois and The Alliance for Re-entry

 

A St. Joseph’s College graduate in Indiana, Augie completed a master’s degree in business ethics at Loyola University Chicago’s Quinlan School of Business in 2018. In 2021, he earned his MBA from Adams State University with a concentration in leadership. He completed a program he had started via mail correspondence while incarcerated, thanks to the encouragement and generosity of family and friends.

 

A self-taught oil painter, Augie created more than four hundred paintings while incarcerated and continues to paint today.

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Bob Feller

Robert D. Feller (Bob) is a great believer in the mission of 2ndOpp Media Group and is thrilled to serve as its Chief Executive Officer. Over the past fifteen years, Bob has been a developer/investor, and construction manager focused on residential and commercial real estate. He also serves as the Chairman of Chariots for Hope, which provides oversight and funding for eight children's homes, serving nearly 900 children in Kenya, East Africa. Bob served as its volunteer president and CEO from July 2014 until September 2020. 

From 1984 to 2006, Bob worked for various operations within General Motors Corporation, eventually becoming the global CEO of GMAC's commercial real estate finance operations, which included more than 3,000 employees in twelve countries.  

Bob graduated from Harvard Business School as a Baker Scholar in 1988 and from Purdue University's Krannert School of Management summa cum laude in 1984. He is a certified public accountant and has served on the Board of numerous private businesses and not-for-profit organizations. 

He is married to Monica and has six children and one grandson. 

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Dan Effrein

A recovering alcoholic himself, Dan has a unique understanding of the layers of support required to lead a meaningful life. Using his personal experience, Dan has dedicated himself to 2nd Opportunity’s mission of bringing meaningful content and programs to those dealing with life’s hardships. He leads the company’s effort to facilitate the delivery of programs on different platforms to reach more significant segments of the needy population. Dan also uses his experience to teach life skills classes at the Above & Beyond Family Recovery Center and The Women’s Treatment Center. He also leads a weekly aftercare group at the Hinsdale New Day Center and meets with detox patients at AMITA Health Adventist Medical Center Hinsdale. Before joining the team, Dan had spent 35 years in the Property & Casualty insurance industry, earning CPCU, RPLU, and ARM-E designations. 

Dan graduated from Indiana University Bloomington with a bachelor’s degree in economics and has attended executive training classes at the Wharton School of Business and Northwestern University. An avid indoor man, Dan gets his exercise by staying out of the way of his wife and daughter in their home in Chicago’s western suburbs.

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Bill Carlson

From the outside, it appeared that Bill was living the "American Dream:" Bill's two children were enrolled in private high schools, the family lived in a large Chicago suburb, a vacation home in Wisconsin with all the toys that went with it, and a wife that was able to be a stay-at-home-mom. Unfortunately, a series of unbelievably bad decisions caused Bill to lose everything. Most important of all was losing the respect of his children and disappointing those close to him.

Bill Carlson began his career in the securities industry in 1986 as a stockbroker with a regional investment company. His client-centric focus and personability saw early success in an industry with an 80% failure rate. Bill progressed through the investment industry, eventually starting his investment firm in 2004. Bill grew the company to a point where he merged with a more prominent firm to scale the business and the firm's capabilities.

 

Today, Bill's passion is sharing his hard-learned lessons while on his journey to becoming a better version of himself with audiences of all ages.

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By the time Krystal Scott was 25 years old she had experienced poverty, incarceration, and homelessness. She knows what is like to sleep in her automobile. Like many others attempting to overcome negative life changing events, Krystal was told and treated as if she did not deserve a meaningful life. Determined to succeed, Krystal spent months learning how to access resources and to utilize tools, training, and education to rebuild her life. She gained an understanding of the state, federal, and non-profit programs that were available to assist her to get back on her feet. She learned how to obtain affordable housing, a cell phone, assistance with childcare, and much more.   

 

Krystal's deep passion for helping others has led her to become the Director of Re-Entry Services at 2nd Opp. In her capacity she created a directory that provides a referral network for necessary resources provided through state and federal government agencies, non-profit organizations, and Friends of 2nd Opp to assist individuals seeking a 2nd Opportunity.   

Krystal Scott

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Ulises Valdez

As a first-generation Mexican American raised by a single parent in Texas, Ulises Valdez became easily influenced by the criminal lifestyle in his community. He struggled to find a clear direction in life, and after a series of bad choices, he ended up in a federal courtroom, being sentenced to 144 months on drug conspiracy charges. Unable to see any other life for himself, Ulises initially planned to spend his time in prison finessing his drug-dealing game. That changed, however, when he started hanging around some guys who were a positive influence – including his cellmate, Augie – and realized he could take a different path.

Over the next 9 years, Ulises took steps to better himself mentally, physically, spiritually, and academically. He began reading more books and enrolled in any course the correctional institution offered – from fitness classes and college courses to Augie’s Values-Aligned Goal Setting class – all the while challenging his core beliefs, changing his way of thinking, and setting tangible goals for himself.

 

Upon his release in April 2015, Ulises resided in a halfway house in Roseville, Minnesota, while working as a fitness club manager. The following year, he enrolled in Century College, maintaining a 4.0 GPA and receiving an associate degree with high honors.

Working with 2nd Opportunity has given Ulises the chance to pursue his passion for assisting formerly incarcerated individuals in their journey toward self-betterment. He also finds fulfillment in helping and mentoring a variety of people, from at-risk youth to incarcerated individuals. He is currently working on his bachelor’s degree in biology and communications at Minnesota State University and plans to pursue a master’s degree and a doctorate.

Ulises currently lives in Mankato, Minnesota, where he balances going to school, working as a lab technician, and spending time with his 3-year-old daughter, who has softened his tough-guy persona so much that he now cries during Disney movies.

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Marlon Chamberlain

Marlon Chamberlin’s advocacy work began when his 20-year federal prison sentence was reduced to 10 years due to the passing of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010. During that decade, Marlon decided to turn his life around, dedicating himself to learning and bettering himself. After initially setting a goal to read twelve books a year (one a month), he discovered that he enjoyed learning and quickly beat that target, reading more than one hundred books each year of his sentence. He also took college courses and developed relationships with advocacy groups that he could learn from in some way.

Since his release in 2012, Marlon has believed that those inside the criminal justice system can carve out a solution to reentry. They can turn their unique insights into an asset to help others navigate rehabilitation. After his release, Marlon enrolled in classes at Harold Washington College and continued to work with advocacy groups. While in school, he served as the project manager Englewood with the R.E.A.D.I. Chicago Program at Heartland Alliance. And Safer Foundation’s Alliance for Reentry. He was also a community organizer with the Fighting to Overcome Records and Create Equality Initiative.

In 2013, he received the Purdy Award from the Community Renewal Society for outstanding leadership in organizing and policy work. In 2017, he received the C.A.R.R.E. Visionary Award from Safer Foundation.

 

Marlon developed F.O.R.C.E. to become one of the most vital organizations led by people with records to advance issues, policies, and legislation at the state level – including passing the most extensive sealing expansion law in the United States and leading a voter registration campaign that registered more than 1,000 people with records to vote.

Currently, Marlon advocates for people directly impacted by the justice system, bringing more than 20 years of lived and professional experience to his work as a thought leader and program presenter for 2nd Opportunity. Marlon is also very active in the community now serves as campaign manager for Heartland Alliance’s “Fully Free” initiative; and he is a founding member of the Restoring Rights & Opportunities Coalition of Illinois (R.R.O.C.I.), chairs the Live Free Declaration advisory committee; and is an alumnus of Just Leadership U.S.A., a national organization dedicated to reducing the U.S. prison population in half by 2030.

 

Marlon is now pursuing a degree in social work from Northeastern Illinois University. He lives in the southern suburbs of Chicago with his wife and five children.

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Yaacov Delaney

During his two-decade span in the Illinois prison system, Yaacov Delaney saw countless men being released into society only to return to prison again, some in disturbingly short periods. He vowed not to fall victim to that cycle. During his incarceration, Yaacov used his time wisely and obtained a GED, paralegal certificate, associate degree, and various vocational certificates. He also began advocating for prisoner rights and strategically researching solutions to remove systemic collateral consequences hindering formerly incarcerated people from becoming productive citizens.

 

Following his release in February 2014, Yaacov spent four years as a paralegal advocate for the Ohio Justice & Policy Center, assisting people with criminal records to remove legal barriers restricting employment and state-issued licensing. In late 2017, he began to work as the Restoring Rights and Justice Reform organizer at Community Renewal Society, lobbying Illinois legislatures to pass criminal justice reform policies. In March 2019, he spearheaded CRS’s first youth delegation to the organization’s most significant annual lobby day (Day of Faith at the Capitol). In May 2019, he provided compelling testimony to the House and Senate Judiciary-Civil Committees that helped pass an amendment to the Illinois Human Rights statute to protect people with records from discrimination when seeking housing in Illinois.

Yaacov is also the founder of Breaking Cycles, a holistic and trauma-informed support group model for justice system-impacted people. He was a founding member of the People’s Liberty Project, a group of justice system-impacted people who use restorative justice mechanisms to build collective power.

 

Yaacov joined 2nd Opportunity as a social justice advocate and restorative justice practitioner with lived experience inside the criminal justice system. He also continues to serve as policy coordinator for Illinois Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton’s Justice, Equity, and Opportunity Initiative.

 

Yaacov is married, resides in the southern suburbs of Chicago, and enjoys cooking flavorful vegan dishes for his family. He is enthusiastic about the healing processes needed to address the debilitating effects of systemic/generational trauma. He is excited to work with 2nd Opportunity to assist people whom the criminal justice system has impacted in building a successful life following their experience.

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Dr. Chico Tillmon

Dr. Chico Tillmon embodies possibility. While serving 16 years under draconian mandatory minimums, he had an epiphany and realized he did not want to continue the cycle of harm he was caught up in. He completed the Residential Drug Abuse Program, the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ most intensive treatment program. He took the time to receive therapy to change his psyche and behavior patterns. He came home with a purpose: to change his community positively. Since then, Chico has worked with hundreds of young adults all over Chicago and the entire U.S. to help them hone their professional skills and improve their work performance. In 2016 Chico was named The Practitioner of the Year by the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Criminology, Law, and Justice Department. The following year 2017, Chico received the Ford Men of Courage Award. In 2018 he also received the Congressional Veterans Braintrust Award for his work in Chicago’s most vulnerable communities. Formerly the executive director of the YMCA of Metro Chicago’s Youth Safety and Violence Prevention programs,

 

Chico graduated summa cum laude from Northeastern Illinois University and received his Ph.D. in criminology from the University of Illinois at Chicago in December 2020. He also is a veteran who served in the Illinois Air National Guard.

 

Chico brings to 2nd Opportunity more than a decade of experience in violence prevention, mental health, and re-entry. He is also currently the senior advisor for the Community Justice Action Fund and a national consultant and trainer for nonprofit organizations. He believes professional development can lead to economic growth and improve the quality of life for men and women in our most vulnerable communities impacted by systemic oppression and disinvestment. He feels a responsibility to reach back and help those who are in the situation he was once in to see what’s possible.

 

He is the father of two adult children and a 6-year-old and lives in the southern suburbs of Chicago, where he spends his free time helping people in the community.

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Gary Stern

Gary Stern was a tax and estate planning attorney in the Chicago area for over 30 years until he committed a white-collar crime. He then lost his law license and served 14 months in federal prison. While in prison, Gary’s eyes were opened to the many deficiencies in the prison system. Most notably, he found that the prison system does little to rehabilitate its inmates. He wondered, “ Why do so many inmates return to prison repeatedly after being released from their first sentence? Why is recidivism such a problem?” He decided that when his prison sentence was over, he would help released inmates better adjust to life after prison and lead more productive lives.

In joining 2nd Opportunity, Gary has a deep passion for working for an organization whose mission is reducing recidivism. He presents life skills and employment-readiness classes to prison inmates to help them better prepare for the future.

Originally from New York, Gary graduated from Cornell University and the University of Chicago Law School. He lives with his wife and their four children in Chicago’s northern suburbs.

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Willette Benford

Willette Benford spent over two decades in prison for a survival crime, attempting to escape a domestic violence situation. She is the first woman in the State of Illinois to benefit from a Section 2-1401 petition, which she drafted and submitted when the Illinois Criminal Code was amended to include domestic violence as a mitigating factor. This resulted in her being granted an immediate release from the Illinois Department of Corrections in 2019. 

 

Upon her release, Willette collaborated closely with Alderman Walter Burnett as a legislative aide for the City of Chicago. She is now the de-incarceration organizer for Live Free Illinois and the board chair for Heartland Alliance’s Fully Free Campaign. She endlessly pursues working to change the narrative about people with records and end permanent punishments. An organizer at heart, Willette was part of a team of justice-impacted system survivors that built a campaign from the ground. She aided in organizing first-time voters and formerly incarcerated individuals to get out and vote in the Georgia Senate runoff election—all while training and hiring eighty-five formerly incarcerated individuals to canvass in five cities.

 

Willette currently facilitates a women’s support group that focuses on developing formerly incarcerated Black women in leadership positions to head up de -incarceration, advocacy, and activism work. She is a member of Illinois Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton’s task force on Children of Incarcerated Parents, the Shriver Center on Poverty Law’s Community Advisory Board, the Illinois Alliance for Reentry and Justice, the Illinois Breathe Act Coalition, and Community Partners in Dialogue; and is a leader within the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless’s Reentry Project, Cabrini Green Legal Aid’s Visible Voices group and Leadership Council, the Women’s Justice Institute, and Mothers United Against Violence and Incarceration. Willette also helped create a voter’s guide to distribute inside Cook County Jail to encourage those awaiting outcomes to use their rights while incarcerated. She testified before the Cook County Board of Commissioners and was instrumental in passing the Just Housing Initiative. She is a mother, leader, social justice advocate, sought-after speaker, minister, and system survivor.

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Orlando Mayorga

Orlando Mayorga served 20 years of incarceration in the Illinois Department of Corrections, informing his passion for stopping mass incarceration. He is a restorative justice practitioner who values humanity in all people and works to support healing for people who carry the trauma of imprisonment. His mission is to end mass incarceration and dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline. 

 

Orlando currently serves the Office of the Lieutenant Governor of Illinois Juliana Stratton’s Justice, Equity, and Opportunity Initiative as re-entry policy coordinator. In his previous role as program manager and director of re-entry for Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation, he worked to build a framework for holistic re-entry services, with a focus on trauma-informed and restorative. Orlando is a co-founder of the People’s Liberty Project, led by a group of directly justice-impacted women and men focusing on creating healing spaces and restorative/transformative alternative policy frameworks for currently and formerly incarcerated people. In the fall, he will start graduate school at the University of Chicago’s Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice.

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Trenesha S. Boyd is a community advocate, mentor, and coach born and raised on the West Side of Chicago. She is the founder and CEO of I Care Too, a nonprofit that supports others in their time of need. In addition to having a master’s degree in community counseling and gerontology, Trenesha is a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor who has worked in social service for 20 years. She also serves on the governing board of the Heartland Alliance’s Fully Free campaign. She is a member of the Peoples Liberty Project and the Restoring Rights & Opportunities Coalition of Illinois.

As a formerly incarcerated person who has been out of prison for over 20 years, Trenesha knows well the challenges of re-entry and the permanent punishments that burden people with a background long after they’ve served their time. She believes that people deserve a second chance and not be judged for their past mistakes. She’s passionate about sharing her experience as part of 2nd Opportunity to help others walk the same path. 

Trenesha Boyd

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