DARIUS TABRIZI, 29
Darius Tabrizi has made some punishing decisions in his life. He started early on, as a young boy growing up in the Arab town of Acre in Northern Israel. There, he distinguished himself as the toughest street fighter around. After migrating to Baltimore, he fell into drugs. Hoping for direction and steady income, he soon enlisted in the US Army and found trouble as far away as his military posting in Japan, where he narrowly escaped dishonorable discharge from the armed forces.
Back in Baltimore, he resumed his street life. Homeless, a heavy drinker, and living under one of the city's overpasses, Tabrizi reached rock bottom. A nearby church offered support and he took it. Soon, Tabrizi enrolled in a private trade school promising electrician skills, one of the nation's many predatory businesses that extend credit for costly coursework and claim big successes in training and job placement. Desperate, Darius joined other unsuspecting students who believed their investment would turn their lives around. Instead, Darius finished unqualified, jobless, and saddled with $25,000 debt.
With the help of Baltimore's Project JumpStart, a pre-apprenticeship program run by Baltimore's Job Opportunity Task Force, Tabrizi pushed hard and found an employer willing to take a chance on him. Today he is working full-time for Hirsch Electric LLC in Baltimore's Inner Harbor, servicing waterfront electrical engineering needs. Working full-time, he attends journeymen classes two nights a week. He will be eligible for his journeymen's license after four years of classwork and training. This is the credential that will allow Tabrizi to work unsupervised and afford him the opportunity to apply for more lucrative management positions. Today, Tabrizi supports himself with a job he loves. Despite his early mornings and late nights, he still makes time to mentor: "Don't give up hope," Tabrizi tells others who are struggling. "Get the right training if you want a career job. Look at me," Tabrizi says, proud of his promising future.
Increasingly, regulatory agencies are focused on the thousands of for-profit schools that take money from students while derailing them from their goals for credible education and training. Tabrizi says he wants to see systemic change so that "schools" simply interested in lining their pockets at the expense of earnest Americans are driven out of business, replaced by organizations and educators dedicated to information and experience that enable learners to earn a livelihood.