Darryl is Redefining His Next Decade
“In 2022, I found myself in a very low state.
“I had worked at a job with a company for about six years, but I had a significant other who had been in a car accident and a new baby, and both couldn’t take care of themselves. They needed me, and I couldn’t work for about four months while taking care of them.
“But when I went back to my old job, they said they were fully staffed and couldn’t hire me back on. That was really hard to hear; I knew how hard it was going to be for me to find new employment because of some tarnishing things on my record.
“All the mistakes I made in the past were due to me understanding something that society understood later on, which is cannabis is medicinal and not the most horrible thing in the world. When I was caught selling it at 18 years old, I was convicted of a cannabis felony.
“I sold cannabis because I had family to take care of – all my aunt’s kids – and everyone needed gym shoes, haircuts, and food off the dollar menu. That’s what drew me to hustling.”
“But because of my multiple cannabis felonies, I was forever hindered and couldn’t get the jobs I wanted. I was a straight-A student in high school who wanted to be an electrical engineer.
“The justice system made it impossible to live my life. It impacted where I wanted to live, if I could start my own business, all the possibilities and opportunities for my family.
“That’s why I called Cleanslate, and I was moved by how they were drawn to my situation and not using it to hold me back. This was a lot different from any temp agency I ever heard of – it was so welcoming.
“I started taking Transformations classes at Cara in February 2023. I didn’t know what I was getting into, but I was looking for change and a way to apply my skills, experience, and be myself. Meeting Mr. Jesse opened my eyes to experiential learning.
“I was so grateful to learn and grow in classes that didn’t risk me losing my job. It made me think this was possible – that I could do this. I could take three weeks of classes to help build the rest of my life.
“I didn’t bring lunch on my first day; I just didn’t have much money. But Cara had food in the cafeteria. I was new to dressing up; I had always been an athlete wearing jerseys. But Cara had professional clothing that made me look good and feel good.
“I began to see myself improving in areas I just wasn’t aware of. My interviewing skills, my ability to pause when I’m in difficult situations, confident public speaking – all of these things prepared and empowered me. I felt supported.
“I became a leader in the Transformation classes. By the end of the program, I was voted by my peers to receive the Founder’s Award. It made me think that one day I’d like to be a teacher or a coach.
“But for now, I want to grow at Cleanslate and hopefully go back to school. When I started at Cleanslate, I thought, ‘Man, picking up trash is so below me and not interesting.’ I didn’t think I could see myself doing it, until I got out there and started doing it.
“On my Cleanslate routes, I started feeling a sense of pride in the communities I was working in. I saw how my work was impacting the residents who lived there. It brought me closer to the communities that make up Chicago.
“My time with Cleanslate, and Cara Collective in general, has really built up my confidence. I can’t let another ten years go by; I am laying the foundation for my future. I’m starting a brand new chapter in my life, and this is my decade.”
Since this interview, Cleanslate hired Darryl as a full-time employee of Cara Collective. He serves as a Crew Supervisor, inspiring and motivating people on similar career journeys while keeping our communities clean and safe.
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