Motor City Man Drives for College Degree after 29-Year Prison Sentence

Born and raised in Detroit, Lionel sees a lot of potential in his city. “The neighborhoods could be improved,” he says. “But they have done a lot of renovating and businesses are starting to come down to Detroit.” Lionel served 29 years in prison and has been home for a little under three years. The Center for Employment Opportunities played a major role in supporting Lionel with his transition back into the community and he continues to engage with them through events and projects.

“I still mentor some of the young men that I met inside today, that’s a life calling for me. I understand how I grew up and the challenges and obstacles that I faced,” Lionel says. He works second shift at his job, so he doesn’t have as much time to dedicate to it as he would like. “I try to give whatever I can to prevent those behind me from going through the same mistakes, and hopefully not end up being incarcerated too. I try to help them stay balanced and stay focused. Not go through what I went through as a child.”

It was the Center for Employment Opportunities that also connected Lionel with UpTogether. “I was kind of shocked,” he said. “It can be a challenge after being incarcerated for so long to come back to society where a lot of people, businesses and organizations turn their back on you and don’t believe in you. It’s a blessing to have the opportunity to be a part of something where someone is really just trying to help you with no strings attached. I just see it as a blessing.” Lionel wants to purchase a rental property in Detroit, and eventually purchase a home. “I can let my money make money for me,” he says. “I don’t want to work an assembly line forever.”

The money that Lionel received through the UpTogether CEO Fund helped him to be able to save more money towards his goals, take care of bills, and stay focused.

Lionel has plans to go back to school to obtain his bachelor’s degree in organizational management so that he can improve employment opportunities. “I want to grow and become successful. I know it takes time and I got it. One day, hopefully, I want to do something like what [UpTogether] is doing, something to help people,” Lionel says. “I think I’ve done pretty good so far upon my returning home to stay focused and move ahead at a steady pace. I think I have a lot to offer that could help others navigate through the issues of life.”

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