Cocktails with a Conscience: Cheers to a Successful Community Fundraiser

Second Chance Studios
3 min readJan 11, 2022


On Thursday, December 9, 2021, Second Chance Studios (SCS) hosted a fall community fundraiser event, Cocktails with a Conscience, to provide supporters the opportunity to connect, give, learn, and unwind with a holiday drink. The fundraiser gave SCS the chance to introduce our inaugural cohort of fellows and discuss the challenges to reentry with our community.

The evening was kicked off with drinks (Strong Reform, Justice with a Twist, and Second Chance Spritz were the festive offerings) and networking, followed by an introduction of our program and inaugural cohort of fellows. Our fellows spoke about their passions and interests, what their time at Second Chance Studio has been like thus far, and also shared some fun facts about themselves (we learned that Khalil, for example, makes a great bowl of spaghetti).

Second Chance Studios CEO Lajuanda Asemota then kicked off the event’s panel discussion on the barriers to working and thriving for returning citizens. Asemota posed questions like “What is the true price of redemption, for returning citizens, our communities, and our country?” and “Is meaningful reform possible in our current socio and political state?” Panelists included activist and #CLOSErikers organizer Darren Mack, education and reentry advocate John Molina, seasoned workplace culture builder Denise Dalton, and one of our own fellows and founder of La-Madrina Entertainment, Minerva Pascual.

Pascual spoke about her own experiences with the many barriers to reentry, and Dalton provided the numbers to back it up. Dalton discussed the regulations that restrict the formerly incarcerated from obtaining employment, including more than 10,000 regulations restricting people with criminal records from obtaining occupational licenses. Joining the conversation, John Molina highlighted the challenges that arise from support systems and processes working in a vacuum and spoke about the importance of uniting the many efforts to support formerly incarcerated individuals in their reentry. Darren Mack discussed the battle to close Rikers Island and also emphasized the importance of educational and vocational programs within prisons. But he echoed other panelists’ concerns about legal barriers and lacking coordination; these programs are only useful if our society is ready and willing to welcome and hire returning citizens. The discussion ended with a call to action for private companies, as Dalton encouraged everyone to scrutinize their companies and workplaces to ensure they are doing all they can to support reentry and inclusive hiring practices.

Following the panel discussion, the night ended with a raffle hosted by Community and Engagement Partnership Manager David Gaskin. Raffle prizes included a free membership from Pioneer Works, a one-week Conbody class pass, a free membership from Pond5, and a holiday spa package from Vada Spa; thanks to our generous supporters who donated raffle items. And congratulations to our winners!

Throughout the evening, community members were encouraged to respond to our prompt, “What does a second chance mean to you?” Guests responded on sticky notes and by the end of the evening we had an array of thoughtful answers, from “hope for rebuilding your life” to “an opportunity to learn from my mistakes.” We thank our community and supporters for an insightful, hopeful, and inspiring evening and look forward to our next event.