Graduates of the Community Action Inc.’s Fatherhood Initiative will be the head, and not the tail, in their families, according to Erick Williams, Fatherhood Initiative program manager.
After graduating the program many have found employment, a new sense of themselves and renewed relationships with their children.
Graduates from Community Action’s Fatherhood Initiative spoke with area business leaders about what the program has meant to them at Fridays with Fathers session held Friday afternoon at Community Action in Beloit.
The following graduates spoke at the event: Javin Rogers who works at Community Action; Antonio Hickman who works at Beginnings Group Home; Kedrick Ingram who works at Humane Manufacturing; Marcus King Sr., who works at Colony Brand; Robert Clark III, who works at Generac and Rayshawn Williams Jr., who works at Sam’s Club.
The event also was attended by Cheryl Peterson of BMO Harris, Gail Graham of Southwest Wisconsin Workforce Development, Heidi Lundeen of Stainless Tank and Equipment, and Julia Ingersoll of Children’s World Ingersoll.
The Fatherhood Initiative is a three-month program which collaborates with employers to fill entry level positions with young fathers who are struggling. During the program, the men learn soft skills, resume writing, interview skills as well as parenting skills.
Last year the program placed 33 participants into full employment.
“It typically takes about $35,000 a year to house a person in the penal institute. If you multiply $35,000 by 33 it equals $1,155,000. The short of it is, instead of them being in the system, they are now employed taxpayers of Wisconsin. Instead of being a part of the problem, they are a part of the solution,” Erick Williams said.
Williams will be starting a new group on Dec. 1 here at Community Action.
Hickman explained how he had an “aha” moment in 2012 when he realized he wasn’t doing anything with his life. Although he was smart, young and healthy, he realized he wasn’t employable. He was able to change that thanks to the program.
“It was the most gratifying experience to date,” Hickman said.
Although getting to the program by 8 a.m. isn’t unusual for a working person, some of the graduates said it was a struggle for them in the beginning. In the first month Williams shared with the men how they needed to make a lifestyle change before even attempting to get a job.
Some of the guys even ended up in William’s “hot seat” where they had to make some tough choices about moving forward.
The program worked for the men including Hickman. He got a job after graduation when he had another “aha moment,” discovering he could do even better for himself. He started pursuing a degree in psychology and got a job as a youth worker at Beginnings Group Home in Janesville.
“This program helped me realize I had potential,” Hickman said.
Rogers said he was living in his grandma’s basement and never seeing his little daughter when he joined the program. Rogers now is an engaged father with joint custody, and he is working.
Rayshawn Williams Jr., who said he was lost before the class, said he had to overcome some personal barriers before becoming successful. Williams put him in the “hot seat” and he had to decide to move forward in his life even though it was scary for him.
“Erick could have kicked me out, but he made me sit in the hot seat,” he said.
Williams Jr., said he learned to listen and to communicate more with people. He was hired at Jo-Ann Fabrics and later at Sam’s Club. He later entered a spiritual program and said he was baptized. He said he looked to Erick Williams as a father who kept him on a narrow path.
“We teach them how to fish,” said Erick Williams. “They’ll be fishing the rest of their lives.”