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Pivot

Tony McCright: Entrepreneur, Reentry Leader Opens Doors

Two years after his graduation from the Pivot Program, Tony McCright is leading a nationwide reentry network and serving his own hometown through a real estate startup. 

McCright, who graduated in the second cohort of the Pivot Program in 2020, is now a senior program specialist on the Justice Initiatives team at the National League of Cities (NLC). He developed, launched, and now directs NLC’s new Municipal Reentry Leaders Network, advising cities across the country on how to expand their reentry services, reduce incarceration, and improve public safety. 

McCright says his experience in Pivot – which represents a partnership between city government, higher education, and the private sector – is an example of what collaborative reentry initiatives can accomplish.

“I had an opportunity that the overwhelming majority of people coming home do not receive,” McCright says, “So I felt it was incumbent upon me to let other people know this is what’s possible, and this is what can be done.”

When he first returned home after incarceration, McCright didn’t picture himself working in reentry. But a few months after he graduated from Pivot, NLC approached the Pivot team looking for talented returning citizens for a first-of-its-kind fellowship for people impacted by the criminal legal system. At the time, McCright was working at public relations firm Whiteboard Advisors, where he had interned in the summer of 2020. NLC brought McCright on board in the fellowship, where he conducted research and laid the groundwork for the reentry network. After the fellowship ended, NLC hired him into his current position as a senior program specialist in November 2021. The reentry network officially launched during April, Second Chance Month, with over 90 city leaders, higher education institutions, and nonprofit organizations.

Working with NLC in positions that placed value on his experience in the criminal legal system, McCright says, demonstrates the impact of second chance hiring policies on organizations and employees. 

“This position is a great example of starting to change the narrative,” he says. “When I go into meetings now, I’m in meetings with mayors, city managers, public safety directors, and returning citizens have a seat at the table. And that’s the only way some of these problems are going to be solved, if we involve the people that are being affected.”

McCright is also helping usher in other returning citizens at NLC: Pivot Fellow Mustafah Muhammad is currently interning at the organization. 

“The Fellows have almost started our own network now,” he says. “Those of us in the first and second cohort who have our jobs or careers further along, we’re trying to help everyone else coming behind us do the same thing.”

As he works with municipalities around the country, outside of NLC, McCright is also using entrepreneurship to have an impact in the city where he grew up. He recently launched a real estate investment startup, BLTN Collective, which allows people in underserved communities in Hampton Roads, Va., to enter the real estate market and become homeowners themselves. BLTN – which stands for Better Late Than Never – was recently selected as a finalist for the competitive Halcyon Incubator.

BLTN crowdsources investments from community members to purchase, renovate, and resell local properties. By accepting small investments, BLTN opens up real estate investing to many families who otherwise may think it was out of reach. At the same time, it educates the community on home buying and the programs and grants available to them. As gentrification reshapes neighborhoods in the Hampton Roads area, McCright created BLTN as a platform for lifelong residents to have their own seat at the real estate table.

“Even if you can’t afford to buy a house, you can afford to invest with us. So as we flip the house, you can benefit from the real estate market. We also let people know that homeownership is attainable, and it’s the number one indicator of generational wealth in this country. We just want people to be able to afford to stay where they’ve grown up.”

BLTN’s first investor and buyer? McCright’s mother, who now owns a home for the first time in her life.