Metro technical institute trying to reduce crime through truck driving opportunities

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- While most metro students are going back to school, there are a handful who just graduated.

A technical institute located near 85th and Troost is trying to make the city a better place to live through truck driving.

"I can drive anything, anything that's got four wheels on it," student Menet Gibson said.

Gibson can also drive anything with 18 wheels after passing a six-week program to get his CDL Class-A license at New Reflections Technical Institute.

"It's not easy at all," Gibson said.

Mark Bird, President and Founder of New Reflections Technical Institue, said Gibson is one of nine graduates this week. They usually see about 300 a year.

"It makes me so happy to see my graduates graduate," Byrd said. "Sometimes they're kind of slumped down, but to see them kind kind of blossom and grow into their potential it's just amazing it makes my heart feel good."

Gibson said he made the career move to feel good. 

"I own my own business and I do floors for a living, and my knees and my back are hurting real bad," Gibson said. "So I want to get something that I can sit down and retire on."

Byrd said they reach people on the opposite end of the spectrum, too -- showing 18-year-old's a productive path right out of high school if college isn't an option.

The 6-week program to get your CDL license costs $5,900. Byrd said most drivers start out making $45,000 a year.

"It helps reduce crimes when people have jobs," Byrd said.

Byrd said the homicide total for Kansas City in 2019 is now 89. At this time last year, that number was 83.

"If more people had jobs and opportunities, I believe that rate would go down," Byrd said.

There's a meaning behind the name New Reflections. Byrd said the technical school gives people a second chance at life to see something better when they look in the mirror.

"I wanted people to see a new reflection of themselves," Byrd said, "to have a better version of yourself of what you came from. What you did in your past is not who you are in your future."

Byrd said they teach people who just got out of prison and are looking for a fresh start, a new focus.

"If you come home, you can't find a job, sometimes some prison seems easier than being on the streets," Byrd said. "So with this opportunity they get a chance to live. Gibson is ready to start his life out on the open road."

"Congratulations!" Bird said to Gibson. "Enjoy, have a good dinner!"

"Oh I will!" Gibson responded.

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