Against Odds

Taylor not your typical success story

Terrell Taylor isn’t your typical success story. In fact, some might say that the odds were against him from the beginning. A lifelong Lawndale resident, Terrell suffered third degree burns from his waist to his knees as a result of an accident with boiling water when he was only eight years old. His prognosis was far from encouraging – doctors thought he would never walk again and he spent six months in the hospital and eight months in rehab relearning how to walk. From that time on, he always felt different, isolated, and longed to fit in. During his rehabilitation, his mother lost their apartment and moved into a homeless shelter. His lengthy hospitalization and rehabilitation also forced him to miss school, and his many absences left him academically challenged and perpetually behind his peers.

In his teens, Terrell thought he had found acceptance in gang life, and began a downward spiral that included selling drugs. On July 4, 2007, Terrell’s wake up call came – literally – in the form of a telephone call in the middle of the night from a friend who mistakenly believed that he had been arrested. In his confusion, Terrell realized that he had loaned his car to a friend, and the police had arrested him – instead of Terrell – on drug charges. It hit home with Terrell that it could just as easily have been him in a jail cell in place of his friend. Days later, he signed up for the July 2007 job training class at Breaking Ground based upon a referral from a friend who had successfully graduated from the APL Teaching Factory. Rather than selling drugs, Terrell’s friend had rewarding employment working in the Breaking Ground landscaping department.

“The staff opened their arms and took me in like I was family.” – Terrell Taylor

Terrell cites his decision to attend the APL Teaching Factory as the “first good thing he had ever done for himself.” It was there he met Ora Harper, who served as a constant encourager and warm, friendly face when he came to class every day. “It’s good to have people who care,” he attests. “The staff opened their arms and took me in like I was family.” Finally, for the first time, Terrell found the acceptance and community that he had looked for throughout his life. In the process, he also found himself. “I have never felt so wanted or such a part of something useful,” he states, “for the first time in my life I am a role model – never had anyone looked up to me for a good reason. It makes me feel good to be a positive mentor.”

Before his Teaching Factory graduation, Terrell had “never finished anything.” Yet his time in the program gave him the chance to have a real job and the tools to keep it. As part of the process he also proved that he can expect good things from himself. Consequently, Terrell is the only student in his APL class who graduated with perfect attendance. (He didn’t even miss class when his child was being born!) Upon graduating from the TF in September 2007, Terrell became a regular fixture around Breaking Ground, eagerly volunteering his time for any job that needed to be done. Today, Terrell is a new member of the rough carpentry crew at Breaking Ground.

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