Staff Spotlight: “I’ve walked a mile in their shoes!”

You hear him well before you see him. He generally has a huge smile plastered across his face, but today is a little different. Today’s smile is even bigger. As his feet quickly pace down TEEM’s hallways, Aaron Cosar gently knocks on each of his coworkers’ door and reveals why today is a little brighter than normal.

“I’m presenting one of my students with his OSHA card today,” he says. “You want to come?” It’s a request that you can’t refuse. This is why Aaron found success as a Life Skills Instructor: when his students win, the entire TEEM does. He wants everyone to be part of their victory. Next stop: W&W Steele.

The ride to W&W Steele is full of laughter. The radio is off and the entire car is entertained by Aaron’s jokes. As the vehicle heads further into the downtown OKC area, Aaron opens up about TEEM and why he loves his position so much.

“I teach OSHA certification training,” he says. “It provides skills so our students can keep themselves and others safe at worksites.” Aaron is also the instructor for Winning the Workplace Challenge, a class that teaches healthy and effective communication skills for the workplace. “It’s just fun,” says Aaron. “I love coming here every day. I want to inspire and challenge my students to be ready for the day of release.”

Aaron is able to empathize with all of the students who come through TEEM’s door. He can actually say he’s walked a mile in their shoes. “TEEM choose me. I got this job while I was incarcerated,” he says. “I came to work here about two weeks after I was released from prison.” Aaron says his background helps with his interactions with the students. “I spent 25 years in the system so I understand what they’re going through,” he says. “I understand what it’s like to be locked up and I understand the present struggles that they’re going to face.” Although TEEM offers a number of services, Aaron believes the emotional support that TEEM staff members give has a lasting impression. “One reason recidivism rates are so high is because [many inmates] haven’t found someone to walk alongside them.”

Jose Villanueva has already completed his safety training, but Aaron is still walking with him to make sure that he gets the comprehensive support he needs. Not long after graduating from the program at TEEM, Jose found a job with W&W Steele. After Jose completed his Oklahoma Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) class, the company was confident in Jose’s knowledge of safety operations. Today, Jose is being presented with an OSHA certificate that will follow him for the rest of his career.

As Aaron makes his way into W&W Steele, he’s greeted by Jose and his supervisor. After a few pictures, Jose and Aaron talk like old friends while the supervisor openly shares some of Jose’s success stories. Before turning to leave, Aaron gives his friend Jose an affirming handshake and then turns to his boss.

“I’ve got some more headed your way!”