Raey Hill has never minded getting up early to work. Even when he was in a Pennsylvania prison and his pay was 42 cents per hour, he was awake and ready to go every day. “So I know I can take whatever they throw at me out here,” he said.
The gaps on his resume were not about talent or effort but reputation and motivation. He was sure employers would not want to hire someone with his criminal record, and he was not willing to risk rejection in order to find out. He was OK with living the street life, even when it sent him to jail multiple times.
Until Cincinnati Works helped with his reputation and his wife and daughter provided new motivation.
Now Hill is nearing 5 years of employment at Valvoline Instant Oil, he is in training to become a store manager, and he is ready to mentor other young people who think the street life is their only option.
“I’m not so close-minded as I used to be,” he said. “I have 45 years of bad things to make up for. I am true to heart in everything I do now. I can’t back-step and I can’t allow anyone else to let me.”
Hill said his attitude began to change in 2010, while in prison near Cleveland. It was his third stint in prison but the first time he lived in a dormitory-style setup and the first time he felt uncomfortable behind bars. Soon after his release, he met the woman who would change his attitude in even deeper ways.
Stacie convinced him to become a Cincinnati Works Member, and through the JumpStart workshop he learned how to complete an application and ace an interview. He learned how to acknowledge his difficult past while highlighting his skills and ambition.
“At first, I was just going to keep her quiet,” Hill said. “I was still in the streets. I didn’t think Cincinnati Works was going to work for me, if I’m being honest. My record is so bad, so I never really looked for work. I never cared about a job. Cincinnati Works took the time to show me what I needed to do.”
He got a job at Busken Bakery that he kept for nearly a year, the longest he had held a job to that point. But he let a conflict with a co-worker boil over and he quit in anger. That led to a period of embarrassment and depression in which he disengaged from Cincinnati Works, and he would spend 60 days in jail for disorderly conduct following a dispute with Stacie.
By then, Raey and Stacie had a daughter together, and Stacie issued an ultimatum: Get your life in order or I will raise our daughter by myself.
Raey chose his new family over the streets. He and Stacie got married, and he was a stay-at-home dad during their daughter’s early years. Then he got the job at Valvoline that has become a career.
“Whatever I can do to better myself, I’ll try it,” he said. “Sometimes I come off a little rough and people don’t know how to take it, but I have a passion for what I do. Even when I was on the street, I was like that. I didn’t take shortcuts. If I’m going to do a job, I’m going to do my best.”