Meet The Team

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Ruben Gaona
Co-founder, COO

Ruben Gaona was born in El Paso, Texas and moved to Milwaukee’s Southside at the age of 15. In 2017 Ruben completed 7 years of a 10-year sentence. Ruben worked as a reentry specialist with the State of Wisconsin for almost 2 years and in 2019 he founded 2ndChanceWisconsin and began providing guidance (through motivational speaking) to formerly incarcerated people and others facing barriers.  Ruben is a U. S. Navy Veteran, former employee for the Department of Defense (NAVY) and an ex-felon and is currently a Senior at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Helen Bader School of Social Welfare.  Ruben has had the privilege of speaking at several re-entry engagements throughout Wisconsin to discuss the merits of The Way Out (and its anticipated anti-recidivism impact).

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Ryan Graham
Partner, PM

Ruben Gaona was born in El Paso, Texas and moved to Milwaukee’s Southside at the age of 15. In 2017 Ruben completed 7 years of a 10-year sentence. Ruben worked as a reentry specialist with the State of Wisconsin for almost 2 years and in 2019 he founded 2ndChanceWisconsin and began providing guidance (through motivational speaking) to formerly incarcerated people and others facing barriers.  Ruben is a U. S. Navy Veteran, former employee for the Department of Defense (NAVY) and an ex-felon and is currently a Senior at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Helen Bader School of Social Welfare.  Ruben has had the privilege of speaking at several re-entry engagements throughout Wisconsin to discuss the merits of The Way Out (and its anticipated anti-recidivism impact).

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Eli Rivera
Co-founder, CEO

Eli was the first person of his Puerto Rican family, born and raised on the United States mainland. Eli grew up on 32nd Brown, on Milwaukee’s westside and experienced firsthand extreme gang violence and the onset of the crack cocaine and AIDS epidemics in his neighborhood. These experiences heavily influenced Eli’s life and the subsequent decisions he made that eventually landed him in prison in his late 20’s. As an ex-felon, Eli experienced firsthand the challenges associated with seeking employment with a felony conviction. Upon his release in 2000, Eli utilized various leadership positions to mentor and employ formerly incarcerated individuals within the hospitality industry. In 2018 Eli created a pre-shift and training app for the Hospitality Industry. In May of 2020, Eli is a Certified Life Coach and is also Certified in Conscious Leadership.