LUBBOCK, Texas — Many who’ve just gotten out of prison struggle to find a job. Prospective employers are typically hesitant to hire ex-offenders due to fear of legal and liability issues.

Johnny Rey was just 17 years old when he was accused and later convicted of murder.

He decided to use his time wisely in jail, getting his GED.

“When I first got incarcerated, I didn’t have an education, I didn’t know my alphabet,” Rey said. “So when I went to prison, I went and got my education. I taught myself how to read and write in Spanish. I landed a job as a teacher’s aide, I was teaching inmates how to read and write.”

After 31 years behind bars, Rey is out on parole and trying to start fresh.

He went straight to the Texas Workforce Commission where he found out he qualified for grants to go to trade school.

“They’re on a road to recovery, the road to being self-sufficient,” said Danny Soliz, director of business development at Workforce Solutions South Plains. “We’re doing everything to help them get to that point, by providing those services for them, whether it be training or employment.”

Rey wanted to drive trucks, so he signed up for the Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) course at South Plains College. 

“I can just get out there, drive, and at the same time, it’s a good occupation, and it makes decent money,” Rey said. “I don’t have to depend on anybody, I can depend on myself.” 

Lidia Franco helped Rey get into a 4-week course at the ATDS Truck Driving School. She said after hearing his story, she wanted to help guide the almost 50-year-old.

“I knew in my heart and in my spirit, this man needs to be helped,” Franco said. “You cannot leave that person behind. You have to be the one to say, ‘I’m holding the key to your destiny, let me help you unlock that.’”

Franco said getting a CDL can open up so many doors. 

“It’s a place for the opportunity for growth, opportunity for advancement, opportunity for changing your life,” Franco said.

Rey is in his final week of the CDL course. He will take a skills test next week, and as long as he passes, he can officially hit the road as a truck driver. 

“I want to be able to show that just because a person has hit rock bottom, doesn’t mean that they can’t rise back up,” Rey said.