Originally from Louisiana, Akeim and his family were forced to move to Texas after Hurricane Katrina ripped through their community in 2005.
Not long after, Akeim fell for a girl who lived in Kentucky. After experiencing multiple family issues, he wanted to find a way to be with her – and that turned out to be a bicycle. He rode from Texas all the way to Kentucky. All total, it was a five-day trip that turned his hobby of cycling into a passion.
“Hesitation leaves you with the thought that you can’t do it at all,” Akeim said.
Although he was finally with his girlfriend, he knew he had to begin providing for himself. After his apartment complex raised his rent, he became homeless at 19 years old. That led him to Louisville, where he was connected with resources for homeless individuals.
“I had nowhere else to go,” he said.
He was set up at a safe space and later a single room occupancy (SRO) facility, where he has stayed for more than a year. He said, “Most of the people in there keep asking me, ‘Why are you in here?’” To which he responds, “‘Because of other people.’”
After finding a place to stay, neighbors at the SRO told Akeim about The Spot: Young Adult Opportunity Campus, a free career resource hub for Louisville youths ages 16-24. It was there Akeim learned about turning his passion for cycling into a career.
“I started having more fun with it, more than it just being a form of transportation,” he said. “When I got here to the Spot, they asked me, ‘Would you like to focus on that as a career?’ I said, ‘It can be a career?!’”
Akeim was connected with Kathryn, a career coach at the Spot – a partnership of Goodwill Industries of Kentucky and KentuckianaWorks – who guided him through the many job-readiness trainings available there, such as, soft skills training, career pathway exploration, digital and financial literacy, resume writing, mock interviewing, personal branding and more. She also connected him with Goodwill’s Last Mile to Work program, which supplies used bikes to employees or clients who may need them. The program helped Akeim land an internship at Middle of Town Cycling.
After researching what cyclists do to be successful, Kathryn even helped Akeim set up a fundraising account to help fund his cycling career. Akeim is currently saving up to compete in the Indy Cycloplex this April.
“I did all the classes I could without losing time on the bike,” he said. “Those classes helped me continue to have food, a source of income. … (Kathryn) has been one of my biggest supporters. It’s like having my very first fan. It was enlightening to know that there are people out there that will support me, so long as I support myself.”
Akeim said he found a family he’d never had in the Spot, and also Ridenfaden, a group of Germantown-based cyclists that get together to ride on a weekly basis. John, the first person Akeim met in the group, said he’s been a welcome part of their family.
“There’s been times where Akeim has needed a lot of help,” John said. “A number of our members have stepped in to help him out in situations where, either there’s a lack of nutrition, or having a place to get cleaned up or help find things that were stolen. It takes a village – we take care of our own people.”
Akeim has completed all his courses at the Spot and now, with his support system behind him, is following his dream of becoming a professional cyclist. And he has a message for individuals who have experienced similar challenges.
“For people who are struggling to keep doing what they want to do,” he said, “don’t hesitate. … Hesitation leaves you with the thought you can’t do it at all.”
To support Akeim’s journey, please consider donating to his cause here: