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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Reginald Yearby, of Reach One Teach One UCA, poses in the studio at the Times Free Press.

Name: Reginald Yearby

Age: 47

Hometown: Chattanooga

Occupation: Operates a non-emergency medial transportation service

During his 90 months in prison on a drug conviction, Reginald Yearby had plenty of time to think about how he wanted to change his life.

Today, the former moving company employee is executive director of a two-year-old Chattanooga nonprofit called Reach One Teach One UCA, which stands for unity, community and academics.

Yearby says 60-plus Chattanooga boys and girls ages 7-17 are enrolled in Reach One Teach One's after-school activities, such as sports, leadership training and travel. Through the organization's basketball teams, for example, players are able to travel outside the city and see places they normally wouldn't go, he says.

Learn more

For more information on Reach One Teach One Uca or to get involved, visit facebook.com/ROTO2018.

Yearby, who also runs a non-emergency medical transportation service, says he can relate to young urban children and teens because he has been in their shoes and knows their challenges. He grew up on Chattanooga's Southside before its 21st century renaissance as an entertainment and residential hub.

* Basically, I made a bunch of wrong choices all the way from junior high to high school from breaking into houses to borrowing things that didn't belong to us. During my 12th-grade year, I started interacting with drugs. I was selling narcotics.

* Being incarcerated, I was thinking of ways to change the narrative in our community and give kids positive role models. Society is quick to say our kids are bad, but really, they are misunderstood and they make bad choices.

* Once I got out of prison, I was looking for ways to pretty much run away from the community [I grew up in]. I knew I would go back [to my] old ways there.

* In '06, when I was released, I became a truck driver. I did the lower 48 states, worked for a moving company. The open road gave me a chance to think and reflect on life.

* The president of the trucking company I worked for showed me ways to always be professional, and that carried over to what I am doing now. We learned to work the homes of people with low incomes to high incomes, dealing for a whole lot of nationalities and races.

* The idea came to me once I was incarcerated: If I can reach one and teach one, he will tell a friend, and that's how the cycle begins.

* Our foundation aims toward the low-income, high-risk community. They need encouragement to let them know the community is behind them.

* We want to be able to give them life skills. Everybody won't have leadership skills, but we can give them the tools to be the best versions of themselves.

* I used to be that kid that didn't care much about school and hung out all night. I basically was one of these kids.

* I've been where they can go by making bad choices. I give them real-life talks: They have to be accountable for themselves. Don't worry about what the next person is doing, worry about what you are doing. Look in the mirror and check yourself.

* We have several students that show a tremendous change. One young man, his grades made a tremendous improvement. He went from three or four F's on a report card to being an honor roll student.

* Any funding I get I give back to the kids — everything. If I don't give it to them the gangbangers will, so why not make them part of something positive and show them love?

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