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Instilling Change: Michael Agnew

Michael Agnew describes life before prison as if it was all “smoke and mirrors”. He was living a fast lifestyle. Michael had been involved in gang activity in efforts to try and support his family. He was working multiple part-time jobs, but life wasn’t easy. Eventually the fast lifestyle got Michael in trouble and was incarcerated several times.

After his first prison bid, Michael received training as a welder at St Charles Community College but wasn’t able to secure employment in the field. During his second incarceration, Michael was finally able to successfully get his GED. Michael attempted to get his machine operator certification while he was incarcerated, but due to waitlists he was not permitted to take the class. Regardless of his efforts to transform his life and do right, he seemed to keep running into barriers.

Michael moved to Kansas City out of prison to be closer to his children and his Parole Officer was the first to recommend he enroll in the Second Chance program. Like so many before him, Michael was hesitant of the program at first. However, after the second meeting he fully bought in. For him the most helpful component of the program is that the resource specialist kept him focused and motivated him to achieve his goals. “Not only that but I felt like Second Chance never gave up on me.” Michael had been consistently turned away from welding opportunities up until his participation in the program but with support and consistent employment coaching, he was able to secure a position with MC Fabrication making a better wage than he had made in any other job in the past.

Michael aspired to moving his success forward and being able to be the best provider and father he could be, so with the help of Second Chance he was able obtain his CDL-A and graduated from Apex CDL Institute in October 2021. In fact, getting his CDL is one of things Michael is most proud of. With that CDL, Michael was able to start driving for Western Express, and has now transitioned to driving with Sygma. He attributes his success to never giving up despite whatever obstacles lay in his way. He also feels like he is where he is today because he was able to resist returning to old ways and his old lifestyle.

Resisting the urge to return to his old lifestyle was the hardest part of reentering society for Michael. He may have moved from the community that originally got him into trouble, but his family continues to live in a high violence neighborhood. He bumps heads with people he used to associate with back in the day because they give him a hard time for doing the right thing instead of falling back into bad habits. Michael says, “there’s always going to be bad days and you’ll feel like giving up and returning to old ways.” But he continues, “look at where the old days landed you.” Michael believes you must surround yourself with people that are going to push you to be your best. Michael will successfully complete his parole in just a couple of months, and we know he will continue to thrive and provide a positive example in the community.

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