CHULA VISTA, Calif. — Incarceration doesn't have to be the end of the road for people who break the law.
In this Zevely Zone, I went to Chula Vista where graduates from a program called Vehicles for Change are learning the skills needed for success.
Although the non-profit organization Vehicles for Change first revved its engine in Maryland 24 years ago, a chapter in Chula Vista just graduated its first class of automotive technicians.
"I feel so elated for our trainees. It's hard when you come out of prison and you have that label of an ex-offender," said Amelia Broadnax from Vehicles for Change.
Vehicles For Change - San Diego (VFC-SD) proudly announces the graduation ceremony of its first cohort of justice-involved individuals who have successfully completed a comprehensive training program in automotive technology using Virtual Reality as a way to accelerate the learning process.
Seven graduates immersed themselves in a six-week course. "Getting up in the morning, coming to class, engaging in class, now you have to look for a job, now you have to work on your resume and to see the outcome of this I am blown away, I am extremely happy, I'm trying to not to cry in front of you because I know how sincere they are," said Amelia.
Sincerity was on full display with Sandra Borrego-Wilson. She was locked up for four years after getting in a bar fight. "I learned about myself that it is never too late to chase your dreams and not be so hard on myself because I made a mistake," said Sandra.
"You've laid the groundwork," said Marty Schwartz, president of Vehicles for Change. He says lucrative jobs await.
"Tremendous opportunities, we have people who graduated three or four years ago who are making over one hundred thousand dollars a year," said Marty.
His graduates just need a second chance. "This isn't rocket science, right? As a society we send people back to community where they committed their crime with no money with a big sign, they have to carry I'm a convicted felon and then we wonder why we have a recidivism rate of 70 percent this is common sense we need to change the system," said Marty. "The system needs a tune up absolutely."
"I am going to be honest it's a lot of work," said Sandra. "You have to be dedicated and motivated you know."
Long hours in the shop were supplemented with virtual reality training. "It was like another world," said Sandra who is fixing cars and herself because she's inspired by her first grandchild Kyomi and daughter Mia who sent her a text that read. "I love you."
"That means everything to me," said Sandra.
These graduates are now equipped with the necessary skills to secure employment opportunities in the automotive industry, bridging the gap between their past and a promising future. It is worth noting that in addition to their Virtual Reality training, these graduates have also completed over 40 hours of hands-on experience supervised by an ASE Certified Master Technician. The four modules they have successfully completed are General Shop Safety, Oil Changes, Brake Jobs, and Tire Mounting & Balancing.
Ivan Corona, Executive Director of Vehicles for Change - San Diego, expressed his enthusiasm, saying, "We are incredibly proud of the achievements of our first cohort of automotive technicians. They have shown great dedication and determination throughout their training, and we believe they are well-prepared for successful careers in the automotive industry."
Vehicles for Change next class is scheduled for late august. For more information about making a donation or getting involved click here.