On the road to a new life

Terrone Jones was an accomplished couch surfer. But he wasn’t getting very good sleep.

The 43-year-old father of four had some significant debt, including child support. He was working as an independent contractor home healthcare aide, but the work was sporadic and didn’t pay very well. Terrone had no place to call home and moved from friend’s house to relative’s home throughout the week. He relied on food stamps to eat and public transportation to make his way around St. Louis. His financial troubles were compounded by student loan debt he acquired while studying for an associate’s degree.

Terrone noticed the frequent want ads for truck drivers and realized that employment in the trucking industry would offer him consistent employment and wages. With that kind of income stability, he could begin to pay back his debts and better support his children. And with no direct ties to the St. Louis area, he could go wherever he needed to acquire the necessary training.

Mary Eye and Terrone Jones

METP program specialist Mark Eye (left) with Terrone Jones at C1’s Springfield CDL training center

On the advice of his food stamp specialist, Terrone contacted the MU Extension Business Development Program’s Missouri Employment and Training Program (METP). METP is a program funded by USDA via the Missouri Department of Social Services that helps food stamp customers access training and employment that will eliminate their need for food stamps. A team of 11 program specialists works with food stamp customers from across the state who volunteer for the assistance. Terrone spoke with METP program specialist Mark Eye, who is based in Columbia.

“I don’t know how he did it, but he gave me confidence that I could complete the training to become a truck driver,” Terrone says. “I’d been through some adversity, and I was not sure where I would end up. But I knew I wanted to be free to live independently and pay off my debts. I knew I had it in me. I just needed someone to believe in me.”

Together Mark and Terrone mapped out a plan to help Terrone achieve self-sufficiency. Mark thought C1 Truck Driver Training in Springfield would be a great match for someone with Terrone’s determination and ability. Mark reached out to C1, and C1 reached right back, eager to have Terrone join its next CDL class. METP paid the tuition.

Terrone was able to leave St. Louis in his rearview mirror, move to Springfield and begin the training for a new career. METP can often assist participants by purchasing appropriate clothing, tools and books for technical and vocational training. In Terrone’s case, the program was also able to purchase new eyeglasses that would guarantee this new truck driver had clear vision for a new life.

Now Terrone sports a new C1 cap, signed in silver by all of his instructors and the staff at C1.

“This hat is my diploma. It is a symbol of my achievement,” Terrone says. “My goal was to obtain my CDL and become a truck driver. I want to provide for my children, and I want to work for a truck driving team that takes care of its employees.”

Today, Terrone is driving for Swift Transportation, headed for an annual starting salary of about $55,000 — something he never could have imagined only a few months ago.

“METP has been my lifeline,” he says. “It was really my last chance. It opened a door, and when I walked through it, I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Learn more about the BDP Workforce Program and METP.

This MU Extension video explains how METP helped Terrone and how the program works [2 min.].

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