The Stepping Up Process to End Recidivism (SUPER) held a ceremony for its first male graduates on Oct. 1. The yearlong program provides support services to those with mental health and/or substance use issues after release from the Forsyth County Detention Center, or those who are criminal justice involved. Stepping Up served only women in its pilot phase and expanded to include men last year. The ceremony celebrated the first two men to graduate from the male program, who started in January 2020 and have been in recovery and out of jail for at least a year. The number of attendees at the ceremony was limited and masks were required to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The smaller size of the crowd didn’t diminish the joy of the occasion as the men marched down the aisle with blue capes to match the SUPER theme. “Now that you are SUPER men, we expect you to climb to great heights and fly over any obstacles that get in your way,” said Stepping Up Supervisor Amber Humble. “You have earned your capes.” Humble encouraged graduates to keep in touch with the program, by giving staff updates on how they’re doing and by attending the Alumni After Care Group. She said their experience and knowledge can be valuable to others on the road to recovery. And if they need help, Stepping Up staff is still there for them. Stepping Up Peer Support Specialist Al Thomas told graduates as they move forward, to stay connected with friends, family and other resources that can help them. “In order to stay corrected, you have to stay connected,” said Thomas. “So utilize your natural supporters and the resources you have as you guys continue your journey.” Graduate Dedrick Fleming thanked Thomas and the Stepping Up program for helping change his life. He now realizes how many people tried to help him along the way and is now ready to help others himself. “I’m grateful to all of you all to allow this program to exist for all the men trying to get their life in order,” said Fleming. Graduate Harrison Booker said the program also helped him turn around his life. “I finally found a place where I could talk to people that understood me,” said Booker. “They showed me just because you have a past, doesn’t have nothing to do with your future.” SUPER is part of the Stepping Up Initiative. It’s based on a national model that County Commissioner Whisenhunt learned about at a National Association of Counties (NACo) workshop. Whisenhunt, who serves on the board of NACo, brought the idea to county staff, who crafted the program, and to her fellow commissioners, who fund the program. It also receives grant funding from The Winston-Salem Foundation, and started with an initial grant from the Kate B. Reynolds Foundation. The Stepping Up Initiative also includes the county’s Mental Health Court, a pre-plea treatment program, which results in the dismissal of charges for successful graduates. Click here to view pictures of the event.