May 16, 2012

On the Right Track to a Better Life

Safer Foundation client making the most of her opportunities with the CTA

Angela Lynn, Safer Foundation client

The journey to our dream can take unexpected turns. It did for Angela Lynn.

As a child, Angela spent many happy hours riding Chicago Transit Authority buses. Her aunt usually drove the bus. Angela remembers dressing up in her aunt’s uniform, looking in the mirror and dreaming that, one day, she could work for the CTA too.

But, Angela’s childhood in the Roseland neighborhood was anything but cheerful.

“My mother and father were dysfunctional,” says Angela. “They used drugs and alcohol and abused me. I was taken away by the Department of Children and Family Services.”

“I was on the streets since I was eleven and in foster homes. I was using drugs at an early age – first drinking, then marijuana, then cocaine. I was on coke for seven years and it almost destroyed me.”

Angela’s poor decisions led to her arrest in 1999 on a charge of “delivery of a controlled substance” to an undercover police officer. By then, Angela was also a single mother. Since this was her first offense, a judge sentenced Angela to probation rather than prison.

“He said if I showed up in his court again, that was it,” she remembers.

Angela vowed to turn her life around. She knew a life of drugs was a dead end.

“My child doesn’t deserve a crackhead mother, so let me get my life together. Let me do better for my son,” says Angela, with determination in her voice.

But, Angela soon encountered two realities that are all too common for men and women with a record. It’s difficult to stop using drugs on your own. It’s even tougher to get a job in Illinois with a felony conviction.

“I stopped using coke in 2003, but I kept smoking pot. I couldn’t keep a job because employers would see I was high. And you can’t lie on your job application because you can’t keep a job if you lie and they find out. But, you can’t get a job if they see you have a felony.”

Frustrated, and losing hope, Angela turned to the church. She started visiting Burnside Community Baptist Church on East 91st Place. One Sunday, she gave her testimony, coming clean about the poor choices she made, the challenges she encountered, and the difficulties she now faced. That testimony, her honest evaluation of the life she had led, and her plea for help were a turning point in Angela’s life.

In the audience on that fateful day was Safer Foundation Retention Specialist Regina Murphy. Murphy offered Angela renewed hope and a path to a better future.

“She approached me and told me if I was serious about employment I should show up at 7 a.m. at Safer with my photo ID. I knew I had to do that,” recalls Angela. “I went through intake, various tests, got into the ‘This Blunt’s Not for You’ Program, got clean, and got help.”

Angela worked hard, gave up drugs in October of 2010, and landed in Safer’s Pivotal Staffing program. Her hard work and great attitude with Safer’s Neighborhood Cleanup crew helped win her the chance of a lifetime.

“I got a job with the CTA. I’m a car servicer, cleaning the inside of the trains. Working for the CTA is a dream job. It’s a 9-month apprenticeship that started October 22, 2011. It might lead to a permanent position, but there’s no guarantee. I love the CTA. I want to continue.”

The CTA offers jobs to approximately 20 of the top workers out of the 150 in the apprenticeship program. Angela knows the competition is tough. But, she continues to score top marks for her work, and has a perfect attendance record.

“You have to think of the people after you needing an opportunity to turn a negative into a positive. I don’t want to mess this up for people after me.”

Angela has not only survived, she’s thrived. She’s setting an example for her teenage son. The 16-year-old is an honor student at Al Raby High School and has stayed out of trouble. They recently moved into a new home near Rosedale.

Each night, as Angela Lynn enthusiastically shows up for work at the CTA, she thanks the Safer Foundation for giving her a second chance, and God for giving her hope.

“I was determined this is what I want to do. You just have to have a higher power, believe in yourself, keep walking towards your goal and it’ll happen for you. All things are possible. This is a dream come true.”

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