Making the most of a second chance: Allen’s story

November 27th, 2018
Allen Curry outside of the garbage truck he drives for GFL Environmental.

Before 5AM every workday, Allen Curry departs his house in Detroit for a 40-minute drive to the Wixom area. Then his 12-hour shift begins.

Allen operates a garbage truck for GFL Environmental. It’s strenuous work.

“When I started this spring, I would feel bone-tired each day,” said Allen. “But my body adapted, and I know this is a good route to a better future, especially after my time away.”

Four years ago, Allen was sent to prison for the second time for drug-related offenses.

“Before my last prison sentence, I had a very hard time getting a decent job because of my prior sentence,” Allen said. “Employers saw me just as a convicted felon and thought we don’t want him here. That’s what lead me back into the wrong things again.”

Allen served two years for his last prison term. He was 45 when he was released, and he knew his life was at a critical juncture.

“At that point, I said enough, I can’t do this anymore,” Allen said. “I have children and a fiancée, and I need to support my family. So decided to change my life for good.”

Allen found a factory job, but it didn’t pay well and didn’t offer the opportunity to advance. Then he saw that Southwest Solutions, though our Earn + Learn program, provides free training for individuals to attain their Commercial Driving License (CDL). Allen knew that truck driving is a high-demand and felony-friendly occupation. His father had also been a truck driver, and was able to earn a good living to support their family.

In February of this year, Allen started the month-long work-readiness part of Earn + Learn. In this daily workshop, he brushed up on his math and computer skills, earned occupational certificates, and learned “soft skills” to obtain and keep a job.

To get to the program in Detroit, Allen had to take the bus because he lacked a car. The bus ride was two hours each way. Earn + Learn provided bus tickets, otherwise Allen could not have afforded to take the program.

In March, Allen started class at the US Truck Driver Training School in Sterling Heights. The school is a training partner of Earn + Learn. The bus ride was even longer than before, but Allen was determined to pursue the new career he’d chosen.

In April, Allen graduated from the school and completed his CDL. He quickly landed a job with GFL Environmental, and started at $17 an hour. He was able to buy a used car to get to work.

“Earn + Learn was life-transforming for me,” Allen said. “I wanted something better and I pushed myself to get it. I know that I’m never going back to prison. Period. I am going to stick with this job, move up in the company, and take care of my family. After my fiancée and I are married, we’re going to save for our own home and to send our kids to college. I want them to have a better life than us.”

To learn more about Earn + Learn, contact Manny at 313-297-0091 or via email.

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