Stories from the Circle
What’s in a name? Apparently, quite a bit because Full Circle Service Center’s prison reentry program has seen the first group of its interns—endearingly named Team Trailblazers—make their way toward a complete 360 degree restoration to begin anew in their second chance. Seated at a long oak table in Vehicles for Change’s conference room, VFC’s president, Marty Schwartz took the opportunity, at the shop's initial orientation, to let Full Circle interns know that he was expecting great things from them. They have delivered in a big way.
Interns, Larry Ford, Mark Chase, Jeff Richards, Christopher Mathias, Valerie King, Perry Bailey and Christopher White have gone on to become full-time employees with companies like: K. Neal Trucks International, Antwerpen dealership, and Vehicles for Change. The jobs they have secured range from service technicians to diesel truck mechanics. It’s an enviable position because full-time employment can be a hard jewel to obtain when one has a criminal record. Even though, a sentence has been served, further sentence is conferred when ex-offenders return to society and try to gain employment. Many doors simply are not open for job opportunities and a criminal record goes a long way in preventing second chances in the working world.
A long-time advocate for prison reentry, Schwartz took the opportunity to use the opening of VFC’s new auto repair shop to offer automotive training to ex-offenders. Just six months into the program, it has already been cited as a successful sector-specific prison reentry program that will soon be duplicated in Prince George’s County. In addition, a grant from the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development (MOED) has also been given to Full Circle Service Center to provide ASE classes and certification for all of the technicians in the prison reentry program.
Another big part of the automotive internship is making sure that interns are well-equipped for the workforce. This means helping them with soft skills as well as providing the opportunity for those without driver’s licenses to receive scholarships for driving school. So far four interns have gone on to receive their licenses, a tool that will be mandatory as a mechanic.
Full Circle has also been able to assist some of its interns to obtain cars through the Vehicles for Change program, furthering VFC’s mission to award cars to working low-income families and individuals. Having a car diminishes the limitation and daily complications of commuting, especially where mass transportation options do not exist.
Becoming firmly established in their new automotive careers, Team Trailblazers has laid the foundation for Full Circle’s prison reentry program. Now, with the next team of interns in place, they are poised to take the example of the Trailblazers. Each one knows that the bar has been set for them to rise to even higher heights in their own full circle experience.