University of Washington and Lee students launch program to help people get their driver’s license back

LEXINGTON, Virginia. – Students at Washington and Lee University have launched a new program to help low-income or previously incarcerated people regain their driver’s license.

The Blue Ridge Mile project could be a catalyst for statewide expansion to all colleges.

Whether you need to run errands or get to work, your driver’s license is essential. But when a judge orders your license revoked, the process to get it back can take months.

“I had a client last week who was 70 months old,” said Drive to Work President and CEO Sara Wilson.

Wilson said that without permits, low-income and previously incarcerated people now have another hurdle to overcome.

“Rural areas, in particular, have a challenge,” she said. “There is no public transport. Many of these jobs are at night and you cannot get there.

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That’s where University of Washington students and Lee come in.

First, students receive client referrals from a Buena Vista judge. Then they work one-on-one with the client to interpret complex documentation to guide them on the right path.

“We’re really here to help grease the wheel and help them take the next step,” said Fran Elrod of the Shepherd program.

“We tried to collect data and learn more about the bigger barriers that exist system-wide and how we can affect change,” said junior student Finn Connor.

In three weeks, the Blue Ridge Mile project has gained seven clients. It gives students like freshman Gabe Miller a chance to learn right in the courtroom.

“It gives us a lot more information about what exactly is going on with them and we can work with them better,” Miller said.

Wilson hopes the pilot program will expand to other colleges and provide resources in underserved areas like Southwest and Southern Virginia.

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Ryan H. Bowman