On the Road to a Better Life and Helping Others Along the Way

May 13, 2024   |  By Ryan M. Moser

Lori doesn’t believe in limitations. Growing up in Pontiac, Michigan, her high school wouldn’t let her play football because she was a girl, so she waited until she graduated and became the coach of the team.

Inside prison, she was told that the trucking industry wasn’t for women, so she studied every day until she learned the commercial driver's license test inside and out.

When she was released in March 2023, Lori learned about the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) from her parole officer while living in a women’s transition home. She interviewed to become a participant in the program and started working for a cleaning service making daily pay, but her dream was to go to trucking school.

“I studied all of the CDL practice tests online, and I remembered a lot of the rules from inside,” said Lori. “When I took my permit test, CEO paid for it all and I passed with flying colors.”

The staff at CEO supported Lori’s vision and paid the $3,800 tuition for her to attend a four-week trucking school to get her commercial driver's license, but unfortunately, Lori failed her road test, because the power steering went out in the company’s truck on the course, and they blamed her.

“The company apologized later, but CEO pulled me from the school and enrolled me at one they had a relationship with,” she said “I was very discouraged and didn’t want to start over, but my job coach and the staff were so supportive and picked me up.”

While in school for a month, CEO paid Lori a weekly paycheck and a stipend for food and gas; they also reimbursed her for drug urinalysis costs and her Department of Transportation physical. Lori has completed all of the requirements to graduate and will take her final road test in January.

“CEO will help me with job placement after I’m licensed, and my plan is to go on the road for a year, save money, and get experience,” she said. “Eventually, I would like to own my own trucking business and lease the trucks to other drivers. CEO taught me to make a plan and take one step at a time, then before you know it you're at the finish line.”

While Lori finishes trucking school, CEO continues to provide weekly paychecks and assistance to get SNAP benefits for food. Because of her lived experience, she was asked to join CEO’s Policy Committee three months ago and has been an asset to the program ever since. The weekly Zoom meetings are attended by about 40 other justice-impacted people who add value to the subjects and are compensated for their time.

“I’m being trained in advocacy and storytelling in order to help bring understanding to the causes we care about,” she said. “One policy we are trying to change now is how little cash someone receives when leaving prison since this money is often the only thing they have to get started in society. And we’re making an impact."

If you want to understand how difficult it is to reenter a community with no money, or you would like to support Lori’s efforts to change it, check out the Cash+ campaign, which CEO leads on behalf of the Coalition for Reentry Cash. The coalition brings together justice-impacted people like Lori and reentry service providers to advocate for additional cash resources to help people get on their feet when first returning from incarceration.