What Operation Exit Has Built

By: Nate Awan of Dorchester

When I was 18, when most kids were about to graduate from high school and think about their future, I was already in prison.

Photo Courtesy of the New York Times

I was serving a three year sentence, sweeping and mopping for 19 cents an hour. I had already been through four schools, through the foster care system, gotten shot in the shoulder, and been arrested for gang violence.

I had made mistakes, but I was also just a kid. A kid who couldn’t graduate high school before being put behind bars. A kid who didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life. A kid who couldn’t imagine where he’d be today.

Today, I’m a union pipefitter. I earn enough to support my son, enough to buy a house. I earn enough to drive my own car and put food on the table and help my mother. I’m building a life that seemed impossible ten years ago, when I was still in prison — and it’s because of Operation Exit.

Started by Mayor Walsh in 2014, Operation Exit takes people with criminal records like me, introduces them to the building trades, and helps them earn a good living and stay out of prison for good. After a three-week training program, they’re placed in apprenticeships where they start out making $19–24 an hour.

For that kid mopping in prison for cents, it’s unimaginable. For those of us who are parents, it’s life-changing.

Today, a new class of Operation Exit graduates head into their new jobs as apprentices. Operation Exit isn’t just a job-training program. I can say first-hand that this program has made me a new man — and given me a new life.

When I drive down Morrissey Boulevard, I see a new UMass hall that I helped build — and think about my son, who is six years old and has books and school uniforms and a stable home and food on the table. And I think about how my son might be able to go to school one day in that hall, the one that his dad helped make.

That’s what Operation Exit has built.

Mayor Walsh is committed to building a Boston that works for everyone, regardless of where they’ve been or the mistakes they’ve made — because everyone deserves a second chance. Visit MartyWalsh.org to learn more.

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