From The Frederick News Post, By Lindsay Powers firstname.lastname@example.org Jun 19, 2016
Ann Ryan said the Housing Authority of the city of Frederick often gets requests for help getting an “essential tool” — a driver’s license.
A big hurdle for some seeking a license is the cost of driver’s education classes, said Ryan, the nonprofit organization’s director of family services.
For 30 people, that hurdle was recently removed. Second Chances Garage used a $9,000 grant awarded by the Frederick County government to cover the cost of driver’s education for the group of adults and teenagers to get them one step closer to a license.
Melique Jeffrey, a 17-year-old student at Gov. Thomas Johnson High School in Frederick, said he has caught rides from his mother, friends and a staff member at the Housing Authority. The busy teenager plays multiple sports and holds a job, among other activities that keep him moving around.
“I’ve been looking to get my license for a while,” he said.
While he doesn’t have his own car yet, Jeffrey was one of the first people to take advantage of the driver’s education opportunity and earn his long-sought license. Having received his driver’s permit and completed the practice driving hours necessary for a license, Jeffrey was ready for the next step.
After finishing two weeks of driver’s education in February, he nailed his driving test in early March.
“I was just happy. I just kept on smiling,” he said.
John Frawley, chair of Second Chances’ board of directors, said this effort marked the first time the nonprofit has provided financial assistance for driver’s education.
Second Chances, in Frederick, provides low-income individuals and families referred by its partner agencies with donated cars and repair services at low costs. It also sells used cars to the public.
The driver’s education assistance doesn’t exactly fall under the nonprofit’s mission, Frawley said.
“But we decided that because it was related to us, that we would do it, and it was very successful,” he said.
The Housing Authority identified 29 people — adults and teenagers — to attend driver’s education through the grant. Ryan said that when people can take driver’s education and get a license, that success sometimes “unclogs the logjam of stuff” they also face, such as needing a job or trying to further their education.
Not having the ability to drive a car, she said, makes other tasks more difficult, from commuting to work and picking up groceries to dropping off children at child care. For teenagers, she said, a driver’s license — even without a car — can be a sign to employers that someone is “stable and grounded.”
“I think it puts the kids on a more even playing field with the rest of the teens in our community, that everyone is equipped with the tools that they need to be independent,” she said.
Ashley Montague, 29, of Frederick, said she wanted a driver’s license so she wouldn’t need to rely on public transportation and could “get around more freely.”
She would like to look into better job opportunities outside of Frederick County. A license would also help her transport her 6-year-old daughter.
In the past, she said, a license wasn’t necessary because she always had someone around who could drive.
The cost of driver’s education also was a barrier. With the help of the grant, though, she finished the classes and said she planned to take her test sometime after mid-June. She just started a new job, she said, and is putting aside money to get her first car.
Meg Menke — secretary of Second Chances’ board of directors, who does grant writing for the organization — said the nonprofit received the money in January and had paid for classes for all 30 people, facing a deadline at the end of June. The nonprofit made grant funds available to people who live in public, subsidized or transitional housing.
The grant funds paid for each participant to take classes at Greg’s Driving School. The school offered the class for $300 for each student, cutting the cost slightly for this group, Menke said.
Menke said the nonprofit wants to offer more funds for driver’s education if it can find a similar grant opportunity. Rather than provide a “safety net,” she said, Second Chances aims to be a “cargo net” — a means to help people climb out of their current situations and become more independent.
“It was very satisfying to see people respond to the opportunity,” she said.