COLORADO SPRINGS — This pandemic has impacted us all in different ways, but one thing is certain: It continues to be our mission here at news5 to work alongside you as we all rebound.
This time, we're talking jobs and the resources that can help you land one. While it can be overwhelming to start the job hunt, it can be especially tough for people who have a criminal history and are trying to get their life back on track.
But one man is sharing how he was able to find his path to success in hopes that others can learn from his story.
Christopher Lewis is a disabled veteran and ex-felon who is overcoming his past to work towards his bright future.
Lewis joined the Army in 2009 as an infantry soldier. During this time period, says he fell into the wrong crowd and was involved in a robbery, which led him to serve five years in prison. He was released in 2017, and immediately got to work on re-building his life. He was also obtained a medical discharge from the Army.
Lewis recalls that within a week of his release, he got a job at Applebee's, but he knew he wanted to get an education.
Currently on parole, the 32-year-old is setting his culinary career and making ends meet with some help from the Pikes Peak Workforce Center.
In 2018, Lewis enrolled as a full-time culinary student at Pikes Peak Community College. He's now set to graduate in a couple of semesters. Before the pandemic, he had a work-study job. Unfortunately, that job became unavailable, so he reached out to the Pikes Peak Workforce Center for help.
Lewis told News5 the center supported him with grant money which helps parolees find jobs. He was looking to drive garbage trucks because of the job's early shifts, so the program covered the cost of his class "B" commercial driver's license, and within a couple of weeks, he had the job.
More importantly, though, he had the financial security he needed to focus on his long-term success.
"Now, I'm able to get rid of the credit card that I had to use during this pandemic, just to get by.," Lewis said. "So that I can start talking to a realtor so I can go buy my own home myself so it's already setting me up for success."
Lewis aspires to become successful in the restaurant business, and he hopes his story serves as motivation for people to pursue their aspirations but also reach out to find resources.
"A lot of people have this misconception that once you're a felon, that you can't really do anything, that you're stuck where you are," Lewis emphasized. "But people like [my career counselor] show you there's resources out there. There's people who actually care to get you back into the community."
He hopes to encourage others to explore available resources because, as he learned they can make a big difference when it comes to finding a job.
To find more resources at the Pikes Peak Workforce Center, you can access their website here.
There are different live virtual workshops available on topics like how to craft a resume and prepare for a job interview. They are free to Teller County and El Paso County residents. You can find more information on those workshops here, and create an account to enroll in one here.