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St. Edward’s Workforce DevelopmentCenter
When Derek got his one-year certificate at Vehicles for Change, it was the longest he’d ever worked at a job.
“I get to work early every day,” he said. “Working on cars for me brings a certain joy of fulfillment that I can’t explain, and add to that, I know we’re doing something for the greater good by donating cars to needy families, helping them get out of their situation too.”
Looking back at his journey from prison to a job where he’s respected and able to support himself, “I’m still amazed. I’m still discovering myself because I was gone for 15 years in the drug thing. Now I’m actually living.” His interest in cars goes back to the time before all of that. He’d learned to fix brakes and change the oil from a friend’s dad. Then he built his own car, “an ’81 Cressida that was the hottest thing in Baltimore City,” he remembered. “I started doing cars for everybody in my neighborhood at Lexington and Monroe. They knew I was honest. It didn’t feel like work to me. It makes me satisfied to see someone happy with their car.”
When he got out of prison he knew he didn’t want to go back. “I have a motto at work, no comebacks. I don’t want someone coming back with the same problem.” He took the same attitude with his life. “It all starts with the man in the mirror. You don’t have to be in jail to be in jail. I see people who are afraid to break out of those fences they build for themselves. When you go outside you experience some things that are uncomfortable, some good. People get stuck.”
After getting out of prison, Derek was working as a mechanic at the Port of Baltimore. He knew he needed ASE certifications to get ahead and started looking for ways to do that. “I went to Catholic Charities for something, and I found out they were linked to this program. Once I got into the workforce class, I just blew up. The soft skills—Mr. Creamer and everyone there were very helpful. I know I can do more than fix cars, but that’s the road I chose to get me out of my poverty.” After completing the St. Edward’s Workforce Development program, Derek was hired for a full-time position at Vehicles for Change’s Full Circle Auto Repair and Training Center, where he fixes cars, mentors new mechanics, and drums up business.
“I had a vision,” he explained. “I knew this was what I wanted to do. Anybody who knows me they respect that about me—no comebacks. If I do a job I’ll do it right. I’m on my way. I make sure all my t’s are crossed and i’s are dotted.”