MEMPHIS, Tenn. — We met Claude Phillips stepping up into his future as a big rig driver.
Phillips said he’s finally ready to claim honest success as a licensed commercial truck driver after earning his CDL license.
This is his third shot. It's been quite a long road after a nearly 25-year detour. Phillips said, "I was rebellious."
Rebellious and stubborn is what a Hillcrest High School math teacher called him and warned him of trouble ahead. She told the kid from South Memphis to slow down and remain a kid as long as possible.
His first round of trouble happened shortly afterward. As a teenager, he shot a guy in the leg. It was outside a white haven skating rink.
He said they recently met up and talked about it and neither could remember what the argument was about.
That crime got him time from Shelby County Juvenile Court.
Phillips said, “I wanted to do grown-up things. I had the wrong ideology about what life was about.”
Then just after turning 30, he joined a theft ring. He went to prison for 13 years within the Tennessee Department of Correction.
As a felon, he lost his citizenship rights, his ability to graduate high school, even the opportunity to work at some jobs. He had lost ground and lost his status as a middle-class South Memphis kid.
He was now poor and watching the world go by from behind bars.
Phillips said that did it. While locked away he earned three certificates.
He was released in 2018 and used one of his certificates to help land his first job out of prison counseling people with addiction issues. The job meant low wages, hard, honest work, and living in poverty - but he was not in prison.
Then he met trey carter who owns Olympic Career Training.
Carter’s company was teaching men and women to change careers.
Carter said, “When I saw that CDL truck driving was not only a huge national need but locally with Memphis being the distribution capital of the world.”
After a few classes, the two discovered Carters’ mother was Phillips Hillcrest High School math teacher.
She was the same one who warned him to slow down and focus on just being a kid.
So, some 25-years later, the high school teacher’s son is offering a makeup test.
The older, no longer rebellious Phillips passed the CDL exam.
With that, he went from the ranks of the working poor to earning $51,000 a year with full health care benefits.
That’s his Level-Up move. He promises he won’t go back.
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