LEXINGTON, Va. – Students at Washington and Lee University have launched a new program to help low-income or previously incarcerated people regain their driver’s licenses.
The Blue Ridge Mile project might be a catalyst to a statewide expansion to all colleges.
Whether you need to pick up groceries or head to your job, your driver’s license is essential. But when a judge orders to take your license away, the process to get it back can take months.
“I had one client last week that had 70 months,” said President and CEO of Drive to Work, Sara Wilson.
Wilson said without a license, low-income and previously incarcerated people now have another barrier to overcome.
“The rural areas, in particular, have a challenge,” she said. “There’s no public transportation. Many of these jobs are at night and you can’t get there.”
That’s where Washington and Lee University students step in.
First, the students receive client referrals from a judge in Buena Vista. Then, they work one on one with the client to interpret the complicated documentation to lead them down the right path.
“We’re really there to help grease the wheel and help them take the next step,” said Fran Elrod, with the Shepherd Program.
“We’ve been trying to collect data and learn about the larger barriers that exist systems-wide and how we can affect change,” junior student Finn Connor said.
In three weeks, the Blue Ridge Mile project gained seven clients. It gives students like Gabe Miller, a freshman, a chance to learn right inside the courtroom.
“It gives us a lot more insight into what exactly is going on in their case and we can work with them better,” Miller said.
Wilson hopes the pilot program will expand to other colleges and offer resources in underserved areas like Southwest and Southside Virginia.