Jovan Sams’ 2016 New Year’s resolution was to get his life in order for his family. Raised in the Jane Addams projects, as a teenager Jovan discovered his passion for mechanics. He rebuilt his first car – a Mustang – and soon people in the community knew him for his talent. “Once people knew I could put together cars and provide this service I could make money legally,” he said. Over time, however, Jovan “was hanging out with the wrong friends – everybody was selling drugs, gang banging. I wanted to fit in, so I started hanging with the wrong crowd doing things I had no business doing.” With a felony conviction, Jovan was unemployed from 2009 – 2016. “It was pretty hard. I had to take care of my wife, so I cut grass, I fixed cars, cut hair, provided other services. I did what it took to survive. I called them my hustles. I found a way to survive but I needed stability.
Jovan found North Lawndale Employment Network, where, on his first day, he announced “I am here to take advantage of everything NLEN has to offer.” First, he completed the U-Turn Permitted program. Two weeks later after graduation, Jovan was hired by Foundation for Homan Square in a transitional job as a front-desk greeter at Nichols Tower, where he was known for being versatile, quick-to-learn, and optimistic. While working, he completed Moving Forward, NLEN’s Diesel Mechanic Training Program, concurrently with NLEN’s Bridge Literacy program. Despite numerous personal challenges, he never missed a day of class or of work.
Jovan is now employed as a CTA Apprentice through the CTA’s Second Chance program. His next goal is to become a CTA mechanic. Jovan credits his financial coach at NLEN’s Financial Opportunity Center with helping him work on his finances so that he could buy his wife a car for her birthday last year. “I would advise people to go to NLEN because it’s a place where they care about you. They want to see you succeed,” Jovan says. “If your’e looking to change your life, this is the place to come to.”