featured-story- Right Turn Renard Taylor Wright spent his teen years in and out of a lot of these places. He ditched school, embraced trouble, and, by age 16, had acquired a juvenile police record. “I was reckless and I didn’t care about nothing,” he said. “I was putting my life on the line.” As a student at Olive-Harvey Middle College, an alternative high school, he struggled with attendance and behavior, and was almost kicked out. Where did he go when he was facing expulsion from his alternative high school? “I was in these streets,” he said.

Then, Lawrence Hall stepped into Renard’s life and helped him see that he didn’t have to hold onto street life anymore. He enrolled in Right Turn, Lawrence Hall’s career-focused, mentoring, and recidivism-reduction initiative that was launched in March 2016. The program exclusively serves young people, ages 14 to 24, years old, who have been involved with Cook County’s juvenile justice system.

Right Turn was just what Renard needed to transition from starting trouble to finishing goals. He completed alternative school to earn his high school diploma. He completed Right Turn’s training program to earn a Food Handler Certificate, and he worked with Lawrence Hall counselors to have his juvenile record expunged, which opened doors for employment. By August, Renard was working the first shift at a Potbelly Sandwich Shop, responsible for food prep critical to a busy downtown location’s daily sales of thousands of sandwiches. Corey Kawazoye, the shop’s assistant manager who interviewed Renard for his new job, says the young man is a reliable associate who retains information well, is open to coaching, and has mastered the duties of each station in the restaurant. “He’s very good with customers, very energetic, and very conversational.”

With a great deal of determination and guidance from Lawrence Hall, it took just a few months for Renard to become someone he liked: a young man handling responsibilities, supporting his grandmother, and even referring friends to Lawrence Hall. “I’m working now, I’m coming back to the crib instead of hanging out, and I’m thinking differently and moving differently,” said Renard, who turns 19 years old in June 2017. “Basically, I’m maturing. Lawrence Hall helped me mature and get on top of things. I’m definitely not the same person I was last year.”

“I love the organization. They’re trying to help young people do something better in their lives. They got me out of the streets and I’m not into ‘bullcrap’ anymore.” - Renard Wright, Lawrence Hall Youth
featured-story- Right Turn