For many, hitting a roadblock means making a U-turn, slowing down or even pulling over, stopping and giving up. When hefty traffic fines and fees prevented Keon from obtaining his driver’s license, he could have done just that. But his dependability – and desire to reach his full potential – motivated him to keep his foot on the gas and overcome anything that stood in his way.

“It all came down to being consistent,” Keon said. “There were challenges, but I did what I needed to do in a timely manner without slowing down so I wouldn’t be held back.”

When he was in his early 20s, Keon’s driver’s permit was taken away during a traffic stop in Alabama. He moved to Nashville in 2019, and he worked hard in the various jobs he held. His work ethic and skill meant he was often hired into or quickly promoted to supervisory roles. While Keon welcomed these additional responsibilities, they also resulted in immense pressure on someone without a reliable mode of transportation. Nonetheless, Keon did what he had to do to make sure he made it to his shift on time, whether that meant asking a friend for a ride, walking or riding the bus.

“If my shift began at 4 p.m., I would have to leave home at 1 p.m. to catch the bus,” Keon said. “It wasn’t convenient, but being where I said I would be when I would said I would be there is important to me.”

“If my shift began at 4 p.m., I would have to leave home at 1 p.m. to catch the bus,” Keon said. “It wasn’t convenient, but being where I said I would be when I would said I would be there is important to me.”

In January 2023, Keon was hired at MDHA as a make-ready technician. As in previous positions, Keon made a positive impression on his coworkers and supervisors with his willingness to learn and reliability. However, unlike in previous positions, taking the next step in his career and being promoted to maintenance technician required something he hadn’t had in nearly a decade – a driver’s license.

“Keon was eager to learn all that he could from his first day, and he picked up quickly on the training we provided,” said MDHA Area Portfolio Maintenance Manager Prentiss Chatman. “The only thing holding him back was that he didn’t have a driver’s license.”

A coworker who had her driver’s license reinstated through MDHA’s Work Readiness Program recommended the program to Keon. Made possible by grant funding from Regions Bank, the program supports individuals through workforce barrier removal assistance such as driver’s license reinstatement, which is what Keon needed, as well as the payment of tickets, fines and court costs, expunction fees and eyeglasses for the driver’s license vision test. MDHA’s Stephanie Harris oversees the program and provides regular updates to participants like Keon throughout the process.

“Ms. Stephanie stayed in touch with me while she was working to pay off my fines in Alabama,” Keon said. “She was awesome.”

However, that doesn’t mean there weren’t a few bumps along the road.

“We had some hiccups in Alabama,” Harris said. “It took six months, more than 30 phone calls, emails and letters to multiple counties, but we were finally able to pay off Keon’s fines.”

Keon also struggled with passing the driver’s test.

“It got frustrating,” Keon said. “But Ms. Stephanie called me every other day to check on me and make sure I wasn’t getting discouraged and kept sticking to my goal.”

With Harris’ support, Keon passed his driver’s test and earned his driver’s license on Aug. 23, 2023.

“I was really happy,” he said. “The Work Readiness Program put me in a position where I can do more at work.”

Harris remembers when Keon shared the news with her.

“He didn’t say anything, he just walked into the room I was working in and held out his license,” Harris recalled. “I was so excited for him.”

Keon’s driver’s license was the last piece of the puzzle. After receiving his driver’s license in August, Keon was quickly promoted to maintenance technician in September – and now, he has the green light to pursue all his future goals and further his potential.

“I want to continue working to the best of my ability so I can take the next step and become a senior maintenance technician,” Keon said. “I’d also like to earn additional certifications for gas and pesticide so that one day I can be promoted to a supervisor.”

Chatman and other MDHA leaders expect to continue to see great things from Keon.

“He isn’t someone who just clocks in and clocks out every day to get a check,” Chatman said. “He’s here to grow in his job.”

In the meantime, Keon is back in the driver’s seat – both literally and figuratively – and he doesn’t plan on pumping the brakes anytime soon when it comes to his progress.

“I’m going to keep being consistent and completing assignments in a timely manner,” Keon said. “I hope others keep pushing and don’t give up when working toward their goals.”