Meet Young People


Hi my name is James and my story is no different from anyone else’s. 

When I was younger, I lived in Malden and was running the streets. I ended up incarcerated Billerica for 26 months with three years probation. While I was in jail, I earned my GED, ServSafe, and OSHA. I even saw the UTEC Streetworkers and grabbed the pamphlet. In August 2016, I was released to a halfway house in Tewksbury and began working at Dunkin Donuts. Dunkin Donuts wasn’t my thing  —  so I tried to find an alternative and that’s when I called UTEC. I got an intake meeting with Ant and I took the opportunity because I felt comfortable. Everyone came from the same background so I felt comfortable coming every day. It was a home away from home. 

“My hope is that by sharing my journey, the young adults here will know that if they can keep chipping away, they can also make better lives for themselves.”

Started in Mattress in TB. I got the concept. If you show up every day, you move up and that’s what I did. I did a trial period back and forth from the kitchen to wood shop and I chose to be in the wood shop with Ken. Ken is an awesome guy, nice to talk to, and I can tell he really cares. 

I had met with Will to discuss my career pathway goal, and I said I want to work for a union. My Uncle worked for a union and he was making good money! Will and I looked up what was needed to be in a union job: you need to have a High School diploma or GED, a valid driver’s license, need to be able to get to the site, and you had to pass a drug test. I had already gotten my GED while incarcerated, I studied for the learners permit exam, and got my license while at UTEC. All the time I was working at UTEC I was working a second job at Dunkin’ Donuts to save up for a car. UTEC was able to help me pay for first full year of car insurance. 

I kept coming back because I knew UTEC was trying to help. After eight months in wood shop, UTEC connected me to an internship at Kiever-Willard, a lumber yard in Newburyport. It was great – it got me used to working out in the real field, outside of UTEC and being around people who don’t have the same experience that I did. It was valuable because I could learn from their experiences. The internship really prepped me for full time work. Soon after, I was hired full time at another lumberyard. I worked there for a year, but my BIG  goal was to get into a union job. 

On July 2nd 2018, Will and I walked to the local union office downtown Lowell for orientation, but when I got there, we learned that the training was actually in Melrose?! The Union President was great – he said he’d hold a spot for me!! I got the job instantly — quit what I was doing, and ever since I’ve been a proud union member. 

Now I’m not just a painter. I’m a proud union member that supports my team. I’ve now completed over 400 hours towards my next raise. 

Beyond money, I am getting a new set of values. In the union, we fight for liveable wages, fair treatment of workers, and racial equity on the jobsite. 

When I first got out of jail, I had no car, no good job, no apartment, no good work ethic, — and now I have all those things. UTEC definitely showed me the light through the tunnel. 

My hope is that by sharing my journey, the young adults here will know that if they can keep chipping away, they can also make better lives for themselves.