Brian Ollie graduated from UTP in January and now works with Lawndale Christian Legal Center as an outreach worker with READI. Through his work with UTP, the TDL-focused Academic Bridge program, and the Financial Opportunity Center, Brian has gained valuable professional and personal skills that have helped him pursue his calling to be a mentor for at-risk youth.
Brian is a native of North Lawndale. He was familiar with NLEN growing up, but never considered it for himself. He lived a fast life and left North Lawndale when he was about 20 years old. He didn’t permanently return until he was about 30, when he felt a call to move back. Upon his return, Brian got re-involved with his Pastor Phil Jackson and his old church community at the Lawndale Community Church and Firehouse Community Art Center. He began working there as a janitor, but he soon realized that what he really wanted was to be a mentor for youth. Brian started mentoring in 2012, spoke at various schools and churches, and eventually became head mentor at the Firehouse Community Arts Center. Brian also sought out trainings and experiences that would help him better serve youth: he became a certified peace circle keeper, successfully completed a Dr. King nonviolence course, and helped facilitate the Peace Warrior mural border project.
However, Brian still felt that he was running from his calling. After one of his mentees passed away, Brian was thrown into inner turmoil. Soon after this emotionally rough time, Brian was referred to NLEN by a city official. He met with a financial coach to discuss the opportunities that NLEN offered and ultimately decided to enroll in U-Turn Permitted. Brian joined the January 2018 cohort of UTP and participated in all aspects of the program, including financial counseling, mock interviews, and resume and professional introduction workshops. He also accessed other supportive services, including a referral to Cabrini Green Legal Aid, transportation assistance in getting his birth certificate, and financial assistance in obtaining work shoes. After graduation, Brian spent some time with his family—he now considers himself a dedicated family man. His wife, Ricquia, is also involved with NLEN and currently works at Sweet Beginnings!
In mid-April, Brian started his position as an outreach worker through READI for Lawndale Christian Legal Center and he looks forward to continuing this work. He aspires to one day run his own nonprofit home or center for at-risk youth ages 16-24, and he is already taking steps towards achieving this dream! He is actively working on building up his credit score and he plans to take his GED at the end of August.
While Brian once felt like he was running from his calling, he has now embraced and fully committed to his mission of inspiring at-risk youth to turn their lives around, a commitment that he was able to use NLEN’s resources to strengthen.