The Life Skills Re-Entry Center in Kewanee is finding a way to give offenders money for their business ideas.
It’s through the Pathway for Enterprise for Returning Citizens program also known as PERC.
The program started in May with classes happening twice a week for two hours.
Wednesday was the day all the hard work was leading up to.
“It was a great experience and it’s a big relief to get to this point after 8 months of hard work and studying,” said David Linley, an offender.
“We are able to see the value in ourselves,” said Terry Burnside, an offender. “You know I knew a little something about being an entrepreneur before entering this program, now I know a lot about being an entrepreneur. I feel armed and dangerous now. I feel like I can go out there and really take on the world and really make my dreams come true.”
Pitching their passions – that’s what these men did in front of the judges, who were professionals from Chicago.
“Nervous, I’m also excited, but like I said I worked on this for the last 8 months,” Burnside said.
The program taught the offenders about starting and running a business.
“It taught me the actual business plan, it taught me how to execute the plan, it taught me how to actually pitch the plan, what to say, what not to say, when to say it and how to say it,” said Maurice Montgomery, an offender.
But it taught them more than that.
“I had to learn about myself first. In order to be a great entrepreneur, you have to be a great person and the second thing it taught me was patience,” Montgomery said.
Giving the men hope for their futures.
“If I’m going to do time, I wanted to do it well. I was punished, I was sentenced to the Illinois Department of Corrections for something I did wrong. I wanted to get the most out of being incarcerated,” said Burnside.
“I never thought I’d be in prison, but it was such a crushing blow and I’ve missed so much time with my children and I want to be able to give them something to say you know your dad was somebody you know I want to leave them something, a legacy of honor,” Linley said.
Twenty seven people graduated from the program Wednesday.
The top five business pitches will receive funds to assist with starting their business upon release.
Every man who graduated from the program is able to receive a laptop through PERC after being released.