In the early 1990s, Tirenzy Wilson entered the prison system at the age of 25 for a drug charge. He was sentenced to 25 years and never knew when the time would come for him to re-enter the world.
In prison, Tirenzy had a lot of time to reflect on his life. While reflecting, Tirenzy realized he was in a “mental prison” and had to escape somehow. He did that by researching ways to better himself and never giving up hope.
“The greatest prison is the prison of the mind,” Tirenzy said.
During this time, Tirenzy wrote three children’s books and created many business plans, including ideas for a clothing line, so when he got out he could start rebuilding a life for himself and his family.
“I knew that when I got released, there would be no limitations to my potential,” Tirenzy said.
Last August, at the age of 51, Tirenzy was finally released. It was an overloading experience. Everything had changed, even vending machines didn’t look the same to him. The best way he could describe it was, “It was like Back to the Future, the movie. I was lost in a new world”.
A local program in Bronzeville helped him get adjusted and begin building his future.
Bright Star Community Outreach — a United Way partner and the lead agency of the Bronzeville Neighborhood Network — supports returning citizens like Tirenzy as they rebuild their lives after incarceration. Its Returning Citizens Entrepreneurial Training Program (RCETP) helps people who were formerly incarcerated economically reinvest in themselves and their careers.
“This is an opportunity for formerly incarcerated citizens to be able to learn the skills and fundamentals to start their own business,” said Vivian Harper, Director of Community Strategy and Development at Bright Star.
Currently, the program supports 25 people, including Tirenzy, who are learning skills such as Microsoft office, resume building, financial literacy, digital literacy, leadership and public speaking. In this 12-week program, they also learn what it takes to start a business, how to create a business plan and how to allocate and register their business entities.
Through the program, Tirenzy has developed a strong business plan for his clothing line CM360 and launched his own website. The hope is that the other men’s businesses will launch by summer 2021.
Within the continued help of this program, Tirenzy is on his way to building generational wealth and giving back to his community.
“This is what I was looking for,” Tirenzy added. “Being able to network and collaborate with other like-minded people who are unique like me”.
You can help more of your neighbors like Tirenzy invest in themselves and in their communities. Donate to United Way to support our community partners like Bright Star!
By Jessica Jones, AmeriCorps Multimedia Journalist