LOS ANGELES (KCAL) — While growing up on the streets of Long Beach, Jacqueline Pruitt struggled with drug abuse and faced homelessness. Her addiction eventually landed her in jail.

She didn’t reach a turning point in her life until she was 23 years old when her mother and her parole officers made she wouldn’t end up behind bars again by sending her to a treatment center.

“After the drugs got out of my system, my eyes opened up,” said Pruitt. “I’m like this is my opportunity to be a different me.”

After getting clean, Pruitt became a drug abuse counselor. But, a friend led her down another path and introduced her to a career in construction. She found that it paid well and viewed it as a chance to explore a challenging, new venture.

“There were some guys that were welcoming,” she said. “There were some guys that weren’t.”

As she worked her way up in a tough industry, Pruitt knew early on she wanted to start her own company one day. With the help of the Los Angeles Regional Contractor Development and Bonding Program in 2016, she started Marvella Steel Placers. Her business specializes in furnishing and installing rebar for concrete structures.

“A little bit of side work, coming along great,” she said.

The free program is funded by the city and county of L.A. as well as Metro.

“So many small local diverse companies can come into the program and we can assist them in overcoming all the barriers that they encounter when trying to bid on public projects,” said Rosa Osorio, the program’s administrator from Merriwether & Williams.

Pruitt said the program expanded her network, connecting her to resources, clients, vendors and “everything a small business needs.”

While she’s gotten big projects through the years, Pruitt’s most proud of the opportunity to work on the Crenshaw Corridor Project in Leimert Park.

“We’re in the heart of a heavily populated African American community,” Pruitt said. “It’s a tribute to our people. This project is going to display our culture. It’s going to display our art. It’s going to display our powers.”

Marvella Steel Placers is one of the few female and Black-owned rebar installation companies. Pruitt wants her story to be an inspiration to the LGBTQ community as well.

“I came in the field — I stood out,” she said. “I’m Black. I’m a woman and I’m a lesbian. I have to look at it as an advantage. It’s an opportunity to be the strong individual that I am.”

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