Memphian to Meet: Jerome Hardaway

Posted on December 1, 2014

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jeromeBy: Christian Warren

This past month, Memphians and individuals from across the country extended their support of Veterans. We saluted them at the Veterans Day Parade. We gave them a standing ovation during the Grizzlies/Lakers game. We gave them discounts at local restaurants and said “thank you” to every Veteran we came across. However sincere these gestures may be, local Air Force veteran Jerome Hardaway is a reminder to all of us that more can be done. As one in every three homeless individuals in Memphis is a veteran, Hardaway explains the substantial obstacles veterans face after military life, particularly regarding civilian employment.

“The same guys that are thanking you for your service are the same guys telling you that you don’t have any skills,” explains Hardaway.

Founder and CEO of local nonprofit Frago, Hardaway has made it his personal mission to provide local veterans with the resources and skills they need to be successful in today’s modern society, before they hit rock bottom.

“Coming out of the military hit me like a ton of bricks,” Hardaway explained. After five years in the Air Force, Hardaway returned to the states in 2009 and immediately found himself in the midst of the country’s worst recession since the Great Depression. At the time, Americans all over the country were struggling to find a steady job. Seeking employment as a veteran, however, was even more strenuous. Because veterans are not taught specifics like interviewing skills and networking skills during active duty, many struggle translating their military experience into something that can be put on a resume. Most veterans are left abandoned, overlooked, and unemployed.

“Being told you have no skills is demoralizing,” Hardaway says. Adding insult to injury, Hardaway, like most veterans, experienced combat stress – the invisible scar of war. With his efforts at Frago, Hardaway is seeking to ease these problems veterans face during their transition home. The goal [of Frago],” according to Hardaway, “is to help veterans gain an equal or better lifestyle than they had on active duty.”

After remodeling Prince Mongo’s former nightclub into a veteran’s resource center, Hardaway has created an environment for veterans to take advantage of job resources and business opportunities. Heroes Hall, as it is now called, will allow local veterans and businesses to sell their products on the building’s first floor. The second floor is dedicated to programs focused on helping local veterans translate their military skills into a civilian employment setting. Frago will provide programs like job interviewing classes, computer skills training, and networking skills training to name a few.

With his recent efforts at Frago, Hardaway has been gaining national attention. As recipient of the “Microsoft Opportunity Award,” Hardaway has been given the opportunity to go to the General Assembly in New York City, and train for 12 weeks with some of the top developers in the country. With his entrepreneurial mindset, Hardaway is currently in New York preparing to take Frago to the next level.

Acronym for “fragmentary order,” Frago is a military term used when a mission requires a different course of action. Essentially the term means to change and adapt. In regards to his non-profit Frago, Hardaway is trying to change the way we relate to our veterans by offering them with assistance and support before they hit rock bottom. With his proactive approach towards veterans, Hardaway is fulfilling his sense of duty to the Memphis community and improving the lives of veterans across the country.

Christian Warren is a Memphis native and recent Rhodes College graduate. Follow him on Instagram @thememphisway.

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