MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – A Myrtle Beach business owner it trying to make it easier for people just released from prison to find a job by teaching them how to repair cracked cell phone screens.
"Come to this program and you're going to leave a new man," said Duane Chow-Yuck, the founder of the non-profit organization spearheading this project.
Chow-Yuck presented his idea to Myrtle Beach City County to apply for a Myrtle Beach Outside Agency grant for $30,000. He also applied for a Community Block Grant of $30,000. Council will discuss the idea further on Tuesday, because all grants will come up as a part of the budget. Grants will be finalized when the budget is voted on.
"We need to get the proper funding so we can change the lives of guys and girls that are coming out of prison and want to change their life," said Chow-Yuck.
The program is called the Cell Phone Repair Business Institute. It's a four-month long program, and the first five days are intensive cell phone repair training. But he doesn't just want to teach students to fix cracked screens, he wants to help make sure they can succeed as they acclimate to life outside of prison bars. The program will also include creating a website, getting a tax identification number for the business, learning how to pay taxes, getting a cell phone with two months free service, learning internet skills, and learning how to interact professionally with customers.
"We're creating tax payers," said Chow-Yuck. "Instead of taking, graduates of the program will actually be giving back by becoming tax payers in their community. So financially it makes sense."
The graduates will also get $1,000 in screens plus the tools they need to start immediately making money. Chow-Yuck said it takes about $4,000 to put one person through the program. The grants he requested would allow 14 people to graduate for free. He said he already has ex-offenders interested and ready to enroll.
"When I was younger, I focused a lot of energy trying to outsmart the police," said Chow-Yuck, who is a former prisoner himself. He admits he made poor life choices before and spent time in prison for that. He was released in 2011 to a half-way house. He got a job fairly quickly, because he had the skill set of repairing phones. But he realized many of the people released from prison with him fell back into the same life of crime.
"I believe this program will really make a difference with people that really don't want to go back to prison, but they don't know what else to do," said Chow-Yuck.
In the storefront at 1111 North Kings Highway in Myrtle Beach, Chow-Yuck will sell smart phone services along with accessories and he'll repair cracked screens in just ten minutes. But behind the counter is where he trains others. He has trained many professionals so they can further their careers through the program. But now he wants to fulfill his mission to teach these skills to those needing a second chance, too. With the skills and tools to repair cell phones, he said ex-offenders can immediately start making money with a job they can be proud of.
"People who have done illegal activities know the consequences," said Chow-Yuck. "So they have the tenacity to take that risk. They're just using it in the wrong direction. They just need to channel it. It can definitely reduce the recidivism rate locally. And the communities that this program will be involved with. And on a bigger level, it's going to do a greater good."
Chow-Yuck hopes to also expand the program to help at risk teens, current prisoners, anyone on probation, and wounded warriors. If you would like to make a donation to help get the non profit up and running, click here.