The United States has one of the worst track records for reintroducing convicted criminals into society. According to the US Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE), federal and state prisons release over 600,000 inmates each year, and local jails cycle through approximately 9 million. Moreover, the ASPE’s records show that within the next three years, two out of three of those inmates will be rearrested, and over 50% will be reimprisoned. Inmates leaving prison realize quickly that the odds are stacked against them. “I teach businesses how to offer second chances to people who have made mistakes,” says Trent Griffin-Braaf, CEO and founder of Tech Valley Shuttle. “I collaborate with them to create welcoming, inclusive, and fair cultures. As someone who has been through the system and emerged successfully into the business sector, I can help people in similar situations do the same.” How Trent Griffin-Braaf learned the value of second chances As a young boy whose parents both battled addiction issues, Griffin-Braaf was forced to grow up faster than most. The tragedy of his father’s early death made a rocky childhood even more tumultuous. “By the age of 19, I was walking a dark road,” Griffin-Braaf recalls. “My path led all the way to the criminal justice system and a 12-year sentence.” However, sometimes the darkest moments make way for the light. Griffin-Braaf committed himself to become a better person while incarcerated. “Those years changed my life,” he remembers. “I dedicated my days to self-growth and education. At times, the oppressive prison environment made me want to give up, but I persevered.” After serving seven years between prison and parole, Griffin-Braaf emerged from the system a new man. He defied his past, his disadvantages, and the odds to reinvent himself and lay the foundation for a better future. Griffin-Braaf’s incarceration left him with a desire not only to improve himself but to better the lives of people around him. “I refused to allow my past to define who I was or who I could become,” says Griffin-Braaf. “I responded to adversity by using my story to inspire others to work toward transformation. No matter what challenges are stacked against you, resilience can empower you to overcome them. I am a testament to the power of perseverance.” How Tech Valley Shuttle keeps a community moving Today, Griffin-Braaf is a business leader with a passion for positive community impact. He launched Tech Valley Shuttle in 2016 to offer Upstate New York residents safe and trustworthy transportation, but that is not all he wants from his company. Griffin-Braaf is on a mission to combat poverty with transportation solutions for underserved communities. “To meet our clients’ needs, Tech Valley Shuttle provides a comprehensive suite of transportation services,” he explains. “We offer rides to community-related initiatives, have partnered with MAS to provide Medicaid-approved non-emergency transportation, and give people reliable transportation to and from the workplace. Our shuttles provide safe, clean, and trustworthy transportation solutions in the areas of healthy food access, education, and prison reform. Additionally, we give ex-felons a hand up through our Roadmap to Success program.” Tech Valley Shuttle has grown steadily over the past seven years. As the founder of a certified minority-owned business, Griffin-Braaf represented Tech Valley Shuttle at a minority- and women-owned business (MWBE) conference in Albany, NY. While there, he educated himself, networked, and secured a business loan from Pursuit to scale the company. “The Pursuit team believed in Tech Valley and what we are attempting to do for our community,” Griffin-Braaf recalls. “They talked over our business plan and were eager to approve the loan.” Helping communities solve unemployment problems “Some people in the business sector say they grow by building bridges,” Griffin-Braaf says. “I prefer to look for tunnels. We dig deep to find unmet transportation needs in our community. Then we help customers and grow our company by meeting those needs.” Transportation options relating to workforce development are among the greatest unmet needs Griffin-Braaf currently sees in his community. Tech Valley Shuttle finds creative ways to remove these day-to-day work-related transportation barriers. In addition to making employment possible for people who are unable to commute to work, Tech Valley empowers employers with new avenues for recruiting and retention. “Employment solutions are one of our top priorities,” comments Griffin-Braaf. “We are always building partnerships with businesses that desire to grow their employee pools by opening doors to underserved populations. These people desperately want to work and only lack the means to get to work and back home each day.” In a nation currently struggling with high unemployment, Tech Valley Shuttle offers community solutions to that matter. Low-cost transportation gives people without cars an affordable option for commuting and gets them back to work. “Our competitive advantage has always been our focus on customer service,” Griffin-Braaf concludes. “At Tech Valley Shuttle, we rise above the rest by putting our customers first. People who ride with us get transportation when they want it, where they want it, and at a price they can afford.”
Hector Morgan Ambassador Hector is a seasoned journalist with a focus on business and politics. He holds a degree in economics from Boston University, which has equipped him with an in-depth understanding of the economic forces that shape our world. Hector's writing is characterized by its clarity and insightfulness, and his ability to break down complex issues into accessible language is second to none.