When I was first introduced to CFUF back in 2008, I thought, “Man, I don’t want to spend 3 weeks of my life sitting in a program. It won’t be beneficial to me.”
Boy was I wrong. I fought Miss Pitchford and Miss David tooth and nail every day. When I tried to quit, I ran into Mr. Jones as I was leaving. He reassured me that I would be okay and that they would give me the tools I needed to succeed. Strangers had never told me these things before.
I finished CFUF’s program but immediately distanced myself from the Center thinking I could do it on my own. I was ignorant to helping hands and having a community behind me. It quickly turned into a dark time for me. I didn’t have a job. I was going through a divorce. I became homeless. I didn’t think anybody was going through the struggle that I was trying to get back into society. Then I was diagnosed with cancer.
One day, Miss Pitchford called me and said, “Tell me everything.” That phone call showed me a light. I threw all of my baggage on her desk, we sifted through it, and she helped put my life in perspective. I forgot CFUF was a network and a resource for everything that I needed help with. A few weeks later, Miss Pitchford called me back into her office to introduce me to a man who asked if I was interested in construction. As a carpenter by trade who could do steel labor work as well, I knew a few things to get the job done. Four years in, I’m now an Assistant Superintendent for Whiting-Turner overseeing 200+ guys a day on different construction projects.
About 2 to 3 projects ago we added onto the Johns Hopkins cancer center. That was a profound moment for me and a true blessing to be cancer-free on that project. I’m rebuilding a way of life that a lifetime ago I was the destruction of.
Update From Santorio
Last year I said, “I’m rebuilding a way of life that a lifetime ago I was the destruction of,” and I’m proud to report that I’m still moving forward even stronger. I purchased a home for my family with the help of CFUF’s home buying assistance grant, my baby girl has been accepted into an exceptional Pre-K program at Loyola Early Learning Center, and I’ve even been able to travel to both Mexico and Jamaica.
Starting this fall, I’m enrolled at the Community College of Baltimore County to begin working towards my Associate Degree in Construction. My employer, Whiting-Turner, puts great emphasis on continuing to grow within your field. Obtaining this degree will also help me with a potential $30k raise. That ain’t chump change! Currently, as an Assistant Superintendent, I oversee a team of 200+ on some really cool projects. Six months ago we completed the new innovation lab in College Park—a state-of-the-art facility with 3D graphics and an interactive wall for data visualization. It blew my mind and I kept thinking, “How did I get so lucky to be involved in this?”
It’s because of CFUF. They’ve never given up on me even when I’ve been a pain in the ass at times. Serving as an All In advisor, I tell the new members that CFUF will open up all the doors for you but you’ve got to walk through them. My story is an example of going from a knucklehead street dude to a respected business man. It’s possible, and trust me, if you can run a block you can run a business. It requires a change in mentality and giving yourself a chance. You keep moving one foot in front of the other and when you reach a roadblock, you reach out to your support network.