On Halloween this year, one of the last surviving Tuskegee Airman died in Detroit. Fletcher Williams was 102.
Though he didn’t have children of his own, he was a father-figure to relatives in the generations after his. One of those is Angelo Pruitt, a nephew, who was staying in Fletcher’s home when he passed, and remains there among the memories of a long well-lived life.
“My uncle is an inspiration to me,” said Angelo, 44. “I knew him my whole life, though I lost my way when I was younger and it’s been hard to recover. I want to change my life not only for myself, but for him, too.”
Angelo recently graduated from Southwest Solutions’ truck driver training course, offered through our Earn + Learn initiative in partnership with Detroit at Work. The course provided work-readiness instruction, which was done virtually due to Covid, and hands-on training at the U.S. Truck Driver Training School in Sterling Heights. After graduation, Angelo completed the state CDL (commercial driver license) exam that tests knowledge and skills. Though it took him a few tries to pass the test, he persevered.
“Angelo stayed motivated to get his CDL despite the difficulties posed by the Covid crisis and his initial disappointments with the CDL exam,” said Claudia Stephens, Lead Case Manager for Earn + Learn. “It’s a testimony to his commitment to move forward in life and build a career.”
When he was 15, Angelo became involved with a drug gang. He dropped out of high school in 10th grade to make money dealing crack.
“I chose the life of the street at a young age,” said Angelo. “It was a dangerous lifestyle and it caught up with me.”
Angelo went to prison at age 20 on felony drug charges. He served four years, and then violated his parole, so he was sent back to prison again. He was released in 2003 and was determined to break from his past. He had his first child a few years later.
“When my children were born, I knew I wasn’t living for myself anymore,” Angelo said. “I’d have to provide for them. But because of my felony background, it was hard to get steady work. I took temporary jobs to get by. I needed a good opportunity, and one finally came along with the CDL program.”
Truck driving is considered to be a felony-friendly occupation that provides a good income and is in high demand. Angelo started the training program in late July. The program is for Detroit residents. It’s free, and participants get a stipend. For the first four weeks, students receive work-readiness training in computer, reading, math, job search, and soft skills. The program also offers support services and job search assistance after students finish the hands-on training.
“My dream is to have long-term work and to save money to help my kids and get a home of my own one day,” Angelo said. “I look forward to driving and seeing different places in the country. I’m not looking for any trouble anywhere. I want to be a good person and make my kids, my uncle and myself proud.”
Update: Angelo was hired by Universal Trucking just before Christmas. Congratulations Angelo! We wish you well as you embark on this new career.
If you’re a Detroit resident interested in CDL training or many other employment opportunities, please visit the Detroit at Work training program page to learn more.