My mother and father divorced when I was young. My mother had different men whom I lived with throughout my adolescent years. My father wasn’t really around. He remarried and had another family and my mother had another child as well. I always felt like the outsider because I felt as if I didn’t belong in either family. My mother worked night shift and I was left in the house with my stepfather and half-sister most of the time. My stepfather was often mean to me physically and mentally, which took a toll on me, leaving me very unhappy. When I graduated, I decided to go to East Carolina University where I began partying and dealing drugs. I became a product of the streets not only selling drugs to have cash in my pocket to live but also I started doing drugs. I married my first wife and had two beautiful daughters but ended up divorcing and continued my ways dealing drugs. I had many women in and out of my life because now I realize I was looking for somebody to love and be loved. Something I was missing in my life since childhood. I ended up getting married again and making one of the worst mistakes of my life that eventually ended me up in prison. Prison, as bad as it sounds, ended up being the best thing that ever happened to me. There, I had time to self-evaluate and really figure out myself. Prison was the place that changed my life. I knew that this was not life’s route I wanted to continue. Once I got out, I decided to turn my life around and do right, but unfortunately, the world doesn’t accept or give second chances to felons. Even though I had completely changed, nobody would give me a chance. I couldn’t get a job; therefore, I struggled to live. I tried to get my license back and tried to find jobs, which in this area is almost impossible. In late August, I ended up reconnecting with an old high school friend where she and I ended forming a great relationship. She is a Respiratory Therapist and is very grounded. She was relentless in helping me realize that I could go back to school and find a trade where I could make a decent salary. She helped me not to give up and to continue to try and get back in school. This grant has saved me in many different ways. I have never had anything like this help me pay my rent, or help me with medical bills and work clothes. You guys are a lifesaver and I am very grateful.

Antonio completed the Lineman program at Wytheville Community College, earning multiple credentials.