As a child, Antonio Williams rarely felt confident about math or books, but he was at home building things. Whenever his mother or grandmother needed something assembled, they called him.
He dreamed of going into construction, but by his mid-20s he was still seeking a start. He was living in Nashville with several relatives who had health problems and needed his support, but Williams was unemployed.
He searched endlessly for a job, trying everything from warehouses to fast food restaurants. He applied with at least 15 construction companies, but the few employers that responded said he lacked necessary experience. The situation at home deteriorated, and Williams grew desperate.
“I was really at my wits’ end, to the point where I just wanted to give up,” he recalled.
In 2014, Williams sought help from Goodwill Career Solutions, where he received training in job readiness, computer basics, resume writing and even forklift operation.
Then, he heard about Goodwill’s construction program and jumped at an opportunity to participate. During the six-week program, Williams got hands-on experience using tools and reading blueprints. He also found a friend and mentor in Tim Kahn, the program’s instructor.
“I was a projects kid with no father and all that. I know that world too well,” Williams explained.
“Tim literally became like a father figure to me.”
Kahn said when Williams began the program he was unsure of his abilities or where he fit in. He just knew he wanted to work in construction.
“I think coming to the class strengthened Antonio’s confidence,” Kahn said. “When he left there he was ready to go and conquer the world.”
After graduating, Williams quickly landed two jobs — one with Lowe’s and one with Solomon Builders.
Today, he has his own car and apartment and is pursuing his dream of becoming a general contractor.
Williams has also maintained his relationship with Goodwill. He returns to visit each of the construction classes and tell them about his experiences.
“He tells his story, and he jumps right in helps me teach,” Kahn said. “He’s been a real asset and an inspiration to our trainees.”
In September of 2016, Williams was named the recipient of the David B. Lifsey Scholarship, which is awarded annually to a training program graduate who is furthering their education in pursuit of a career.
Williams said the scholarship was just one more example of positive change in his life.
“Goodwill helped me, and I’m in a better place for it,” he said.
— By Chris Fletcher
Prior to joining Goodwill as its PR & Communications Manager in 2014, Fletcher was a professional journalist for
more than 25 years working at media outlets in three states, including the Associated Press.