Program Gives Ex-Offenders A 2nd Chance At Life

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A new program for out-of-work and struggling men is teaching them to build homes, and build a better future for themselves.

For the past five months, six students have learned the math and hands-on skills it takes to construct a home.

As part of their course, they helped rehab a foreclosed house in North Minneapolis.

“These people in this community are on some type of county program. We don’t want welfare. We believe the best social service program in the world is a job, but you have to have skills to get a job and you have to have a network to connect you to it,” said Louis King, President and CEO of Summit Academy OIC.

Summit Academy and Hennepin County partnered to create the program with the help of local, state, and federal tax dollars.

It’s designed for African-American men who’ve had trouble finding jobs, or trouble with gangs or drugs.

“It takes so much energy to be a thug. It takes so much energy to be a gang banger. It takes so much energy to be something outside of you,” said 42-year-old Willie Lloyd Jr., who knows that life well.

He recently got the job as the instructor for the program.

“I spent so many years helping to tear down a community and now to be able to build it up, one house at a time is very fulfilling,” he said.

His father was a notorious gang leader in the Midwest who killed a state trooper and ended up being shot and paralyzed by other gang members.

“I thought I wanted to be like him,” he said.

Lloyd was only 17 years old when he got into a fight with another gang and killed someone.

“I was incarcerated for 23 years from 1988 to 2011 for first degree murder,” he said.

It took years for him to change his attitude and his heart.

It started with reading the dictionary and then books. He said he wanted to expand his vocabulary, and become a better speaker because he grew up with a stutter. He was reading 13 books a month in prison.

But the real shift happened when he lost his mother.

“What’s the best way to honor my mother, by being the man she always thought I would be, that was when the light first came on,” said Lloyd.

He said he took for granted he would see his mother again someday, but his mother’s death lead him to a path of mentoring other prisoners, and creating a future for himself.

When he was released in the summer of 2011, Lloyd enrolled in Summit. He was so successful that he was appointed to be an instructor.

Now he’s helping other men who have walked similar paths measure up to what they can be.

“How do you place a value on having your dignity restored, being able to take care of your family, being able to walk with your head up high,” he said.

Lloyd recently got married and said his main focus right now is being a good husband and father to his two grown sons.

More from Holly Wagner
  • lady350

    Reblogged this on Lady350's Blog and commented:
    I wish to be apart of this process. i am in the Criminal Justice field focusing on Corrections and this program seems to be interesting to me.

    • Chronic Masturbater

      I could use a hand too!

    • DEEP

      You might enjoy the film “American Drug War: The Last White Hope” by Kevin Booth.

  • DEEP

    This is fine and all feel good. However I find it racist that it’s an “African American” thing? I mean really? I’m a “Swedish American” that went to PYC in 1989 for 12th grade (Penn & Broadway N.Side). The whole atmosphere is racist over North and I have found again and again that being a “white boy” over north is less than fun. I cannot believe in 2012 this blatant racism is acceptable? Yesterday Obama announced “African Americas for Obama”!? Can you Imagine if Romney announced “Northern European’s for Romney”!? Or what if tax dollars were used for a program for white people!? It’s sad really. Obama has continued all of the wars on terror and drugs that affects poor people and especially black folks unfairly. And even stranger, the only candidate that openly speaks of how the CIA deals the drugs, the banks launder the drug money, the drug war task force cops are thugs and openly points out how more poor and poor blacks end up in prison is a 76 yr old white guy from of all states Texas named Ron Paul!? No wonder black guys like Snoop Dogg and KRS-1 have openly supported Ron Paul. At the end of the day, good for these men and I wish them well and hope that one day we can hire them to build or fix our homes. But band aids like this program never dig down and attack the underling threats to our economy and freedoms. Of course people that point out the real problems don’t get “Federal Funding”. Peace and love we are all one.

  • Richard Cheese

    This is about as racist is it gets. Help the blacks by stepping on the throat of the working people. Why don’t they have to pay back for the education & help they get?

  • unknown

    Summit Acadamy isn’t free. Educate yourself.

  • Kevin

    “It’s designed for African-American men” Really? Every construction worker I know is suffering. So lets put “6” black men to work and train them to build houses? ARE YOU INSANE? NO ONE IS BUILDING HOUSES! And rehab houses in N Mpls? I am sure there is a waiting list for that…..why not teach them to tear down the houses….that would be a win…win…

  • Tina

    Oh come on you people, get real!! Why not get some of these thugs off the street and put them to work?? Who cares about the color of their skin? Why don’t you complaining white men get off your duffs and start a program for white men??? This man has a great idea and it is working!! Wouldn’t you rather read about a program like this than one of these same people killing or robbing someone because they didn’t have skills to get a job and needed money and food? Why not look at the positive side of this story???

    • DEEP

      I make 30k a year. The Federal Gov stole over $4k from my pay last year with the so-called income tax against the Constitution of my free Republic. That $4k could have helped my family A LOT! I would have spent money at companies that need customers…… I don’t want one cent of my hard earned money going towards anything or anyone that isn’t my choice. “The path to hell is paved with good intentions” Want to see a film staring an African America woman and former IRS agent that is now dieing in prison? Please watch “America Freedom to Fascism” on net-flix or on line. You can earn $50 k if you “find the law” and you can give it all to these guys.

      • ^ Doy doy doy doy doyddoy doy ^

        You’ve got a lot of learning to do, sweet pea.

        • DEEP

          We all do but I will tell you “doy doy”, people that name call simply have no intellect to stand on. I doubt you have much of anything to offer me but I am always open to learn.

  • Patty McMains OReilley

    This is extremely racist!!! Why in the world would this be limited to “African-American Men”!!!! When I saw this headline I was thinking it was a great thing!! Why limit it to Men for one thing….and really??? Why only African-American?? We are all the same color under our skin, does a skin color really matter??? Are we moving backwards in this world or what? This is insane!!!!

    • Justice for All

      I agree 100%. This sounds like a good program – but – should be offered to all!!!!

  • Patty McMains OReilley

    This is extremely racist!!! Why in the world would this be limited to “African-American Men”!!!! When I saw this headline I was thinking it was a great thing!! Why limit it to Men for one thing….and really??? Why only African-American?? We are all the same color under our skin, does a skin color really matter??? Are we moving backwards in this world or what? This is insane!!!!

  • DEEP

    UN Wants World Tax To ‘Help The Poor’
    Global levy needed to aid “needy people” get free housing, education and healthcare
    Paul Joseph Watson
    Infowars dot com

  • Edna Goebel

    Any program that can turn a criminal into a productive citizen, is a good thing
    regardless of color. It may be a bit racist but the over all program is a good thing. It would be great if there were more like them in a variety of careers.

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