Chris finds security in earning CDL: “That means everything to me”

Oct 31, 2023   |  By Emily Montgomery

It’s been a year of accomplishments for Chris, a former participant at the San Jose office of the Center for Employment Opportunity (CEO). He has not only completed a year of employment post-incarceration, but he also earned his Commercial Drivers License (CDL) this spring.

In fact, Chris was the first graduate of the CDL program at CEO’s San Jose office after initially entering the organization as a participant in the summer of 2022. For the CDL program, CEO covers tuition costs for enrolled participants as well as weekly stipends–to help with living expenses–and case management. CEO recognizes this assistance is critical to participants’ ability to complete the course.

With that support, Chris became a certified Class A Commercial Driver with Tanker Endorsement, which allows him to operate large commercial vehicles.

“All of the staff members were super supportive,” he said. “Everybody was there to change their lives. I felt like I was one of them right away.”

Chris says it was at the beginning of this year when he learned that the San Jose site was launching a program to support individuals who wanted to complete their CDL training. Though it meant taking classes at the same time as working full-time, he took advantage of the opportunity immediately.

“I had to do a lot of juggling,” Chris said. “But I studied and studied.”

He explained that his brother has his Class B license and advised Chris to study until he was sick of it, so that’s what he did.

It paid off – Chris was ready when it came time to take his test. “I was so nervous, but I aced it,” he said.

Chris said that earning his CDL is one of his most significant accomplishments and gives him a new sense of security.

“I’m always going to have a job no matter what,” he said. “That means everything to me.”

Chris currently works at a job he loves, doing traffic flagging. He’s been there for a full year, which is another big achievement.

“It feels good to be responsible,” Chris said. “I’m always on time. I always want to learn. I’ve got a good attitude, and I work hard.”

While he put in the work to get where he is, Chris is grateful for the support he received from CEO along the way.

“CEO is my everything,” he said. “It has helped me so much.”