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New program provides at-risk youth with careers, not jobs

Published: Dec. 18, 2020 at 6:56 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - A new program in Louisville is aimed at helping at-risk youth find careers.

The U Ask Academy was started by two men who know life in the court system personally.

Over the last three weeks, they’ve worked to help three young adults stay out of it.

The program combines intervention and prevention. It targets young adults caught up in the court system, and trains them with life and career skills to flip the outcomes of their past decisions.

Students in the program said it shows that regardless of your record, you can achieve positive, life-changing goals. Three young adults were able to accomplish their goals after a three-week, eight-hour-a-day, intensive program.

“I never had so many opportunities in front of me,” said Tyrayle Hill, a student in the program.

Hill, Aisjah Washington and Joel Gruber were the first U Ask Academy graduates. Their paths to graduation may seem different to some, but not to one of its program leaders, Chris Forehand.

“The major motivation is I was once in the seat that they’re in,” Forehand said.

Forehand, a convicted felon, said it was lifechanging for him when he was able to make up to $100,000 a year in the auto sales business. Now, he’s educating his students so they can outsell anyone. He said the starting salary at some dealerships is $35,000, adding that the students have an upper hand with their knowledge and skill. New technology and online sales are part of the new wave, and some veteran salesmen aren’t familiar with those tools. Forehand said those skills will help his young students stand out.

“Kids that take career-type jobs instead of a regular-job-type job do better,” Forehand said.

Forehand runs U Ask Academy, with CEO Jene Stewart. It’s for 18-to-24-year-olds who got caught up in the judicial system.

Students learn the fundamentals of the auto business and life skills, practice mock interviews, visit dealerships, set up bank accounts and more.

“They want to see us do good and do better,” Hill said. “For not only us but for our community. Not only that, we’re to also reach out to people who feel there’s no way out or don’t have direction to run to.”

“I never had the motivation before,” Gruber said. “I never had anybody say, ‘I believe in you; you can do this.’ They came to me, didn’t worry about my record, none of it. They came to me, and we got through it.”

Gruber said graduating from the program Friday felt better than his high school graduation, and he’s excited for the hefty paychecks. Hill said he’s also working on his real estate license.

“My goal is to be a multi-millionaire,” Hill said. “I have a big household but a small family. My mom raised us her whole life by herself. It’s my turn to break the cycle and build a foundation and take care of her.”

The students said the difference for the three, between graduation day and a month ago, is that they have confidence in their future.

Gruber and Hill were both hired on the spot and start new jobs at Town and Country Ford on Monday. Five more students are on track to graduate the program in January.

Forehand said the program is part of the Reimage Organization, which works with the city and was given a $1.3 million grant to provide support for at-risk youth in construction, manufacturing and auto sales.

To qualify for the program you must be between 18 and 24 years old and have gone through the legal system for some type of crime.

For more information and to get connected with the program visit https://uaskacademy.com/

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