Jamal’s Story (not his real name)
Jamal was my client. He was a decent young African American man with no prior criminal charges. However, in an effort to make some fast money, he made several bad choices that resulted in him having a felony record. Consequently, he was very discouraged because his criminal record had cost him his job and was preventing him from finding another one. He has two children: a newborn and five-year-older. As a man, he felt awful not being able to provide for his children.
I admired Jamal for caring and showing concern for his children, unlike many of my other clients. I encouraged him to stay strong and do right by his children no matter what. I told him tough times never last, but tough people do. He was encouraged and said he wanted to start a business. He asked me if I knew about any programs to help him start his business.
Create Economic Opportunities For Yourself
That experience awakened in me a strong desire to help Jamal and other young men in his dilemma. As a minister and attorney, I see the problem of unemployed ex-offenders unable to find employment daily. Hence, I developed the CEO project.
The CEO project, which stands for Creating Economic Opportunities, will help spur business ownership for ex-offenders. A potential extraneous benefit is that it will address high minority unemployment by providing jobs in inner city communities. Its primary purpose though is to give ex-offenders hope for the future despite the sizable number of employers that often discriminate against them because of their criminal background.
African American men with a criminal record are particularly confronted with the daunting challenge of finding employment. As stated above, potential employers discriminate against them the moment a background search reveals a criminal record. Employers typically do not care that the case was dismissed or reduced and often refuse any explanations about the case. All too often, the criminal label becomes a second punishment. This leaves many African American men frustrated, angry and hopeless. Many return to criminal activity.
Hope and Self-Sufficiency by Becoming a CEO
The CEO program will offer these young men hope. Among other things, they will learn how to create economic opportunities for themselves. They will learn how to be self-sufficient through business-ownership despite possessing a criminal record. In so doing, they can turn the negative situation of having a criminal record into the positive situation of becoming CEOs. Additionally, the CEO project can help others with criminal records by offering them jobs.
Benefits of CEO Program
The program has many benefits. Principally, participants will learn:
- How to write a business plan?
- How to get a small business loan?
- How to setup a small business
- How to run a small business?
- Taxes and accounting tips for small businesses
- And more.
The CEO program will collaborate with business professors, chief executive officers and other business leaders from around Dallas-Fort Worth to conduct seminars, give speeches and mentor some of our students.
Admission and Tuition Requirements
The admission requirement for the CEO program will not be stringent. However, an applicant must show:
- He or she is a non-violent criminal offender;
- Possesses a high school diploma or GED; and
- Has a credible business idea.
Tuition in the CEO program will be minimal. The length of the program will be approximately eight-weeks. Graduates will receive a certificate and a small amount of seed money to start their business.