One Man’s Journey with Westside Works
Intro by John Ahmann: Demonstrating the power of We, this week’s column is a powerful personal testimonial by Nicholas Sherlock-Holmes, a successful graduate of the Westside Works’ Construction Ready program. Thanks to the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation and Westside Works for facilitating this week’s column.
A partnership between the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation and several nonprofits collaborating together, Westside Works was launched in 2014. It is a long-term neighborhood program that is focused on creating employment opportunities and job training for residents of the Westside community, including Vine City, English Avenue, Castleberry Hill and other contiguous neighborhoods.
During last Friday’s Transform Westside Summit, Frank Fernandez, Vice President of Community Development for the Arthur Blank Foundation, led a panel with several Westside Works partners to share insights about the work they are doing to connect Westside residents to jobs that will build economic empowerment and with it, the dignity that comes from self-sufficiency. Thanks to Frank for his leadership and the philanthropic support of the Arthur M. Blank Foundation to stand-up Westside Works and also to Reverend Beckham of English Avenue, the CEO of Integrity CDC and Managing Partner of Westside Works.
Westside Works is one of five beneficiaries of the upcoming Beloved Benefit. Over the past few months, Westside Future Fund is grateful for the opportunity to feature several of these partners including Grove Park Foundation and the City of Refuge at the Transform Westside Summits. If you missed it, you can watch the recorded livestream of Westside Works’ Summit presentation.
A final thanks to Mr. Sherlock-Holmes for his willingness to share his personal story and for reminding us all what we can accomplish together.
By Nickolas Sherlock-Holmes
My name is Nicholas Sherlock-Holmes, and I am a graduate of Westside Works. I am extremely proud to be asked to write a letter about the impact that Westside Works and The Blank Foundation has had in my life.
My journey hasn’t always been easy, but it’s mine, and it was preparation for making me who I was meant to become.
I was an addict. I was addicted to drugs. I was living a reckless lifestyle. I’d been to prison and jail. I didn’t really care about anyone. I didn’t care about myself. I had a rough childhood and I had some factors that I would say contributed to my lack of affection to anyone. I lost my mother to suicide at the age of nine, and my father was absent. Through my mother committing suicide, it felt like the one person that should have loved me and been there for me the most leaves me and abandoned me. I couldn’t trust anyone else. I grew up with an attitude as to no one really cares.
And then I met Mrs. Sharon Maddox with Westside Works. She told me not to take a job offer I had received to make $11 an hour starting the next day because she believed that it would be in my best interest to try this new program that was just getting off the ground called Westside Works. She thought I would be a really good fit. Through her faith in me and the trust I started to build with her, I took a chance on my future. I graduated from the 2nd Construction Ready program class at Westside Works in 2014.
You have to want to help yourself first. You have to love yourself first. I never saw myself here.
Who would have known that nearly five years later, I would be a foreman for Anning-Johnson Atlanta making over $20 an hour. To some that may not be much, but for me coming from a journey of so many bad decisions, to be here five years later was unfathomable.
A lot of things have happened in the past five years of my life since graduating from Westside Works. From meeting my beautiful wife and being blessed with two more beautiful kids, making me a father of five – Jauquavis, Jasmine ,Gracie, Grayson and Amberly – to my wife and I purchasing our first home.
I have a long extensive criminal record, I have a history of drug abuse, and I have done many things that I’m not proud of, but through the funding of Westside Works from Arthur Blank and his desire to help people who really needed help that have been counted out of the game, I stand here a proud success story.
I say thank you so much for believing in the people that society says are nobody’s and good for nothing. We all make mistakes in life. Some of us get caught and some of us don’t, but we are all the same underneath. We all have the options to make change but for some they are not presented opportunities like this – real jobs, real careers where they can wake up and feel good about themselves. Instead, convicted felons are often offered fast food jobs paying minimum wage, which will never allow them to support themselves let alone a family, so I ask that we continue to build and fund organizations like Westside Works. This is the true definition of giving back to society.
My life is so impactful to so many people who used to run the streets with me. When they see me on TV on NBC before the Falcons and Patriots game, or the documentary film with Nathan Deal and United States District Attorney’s office, or pictures of me on Facebook with Bill and Melinda Gates, or at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in one of Arthur Blank’s suites, they know that I took a real opportunity and changed my life.
THANK YOU FOR THE OPPORTUNITY. Please continue to provide opportunities for people like me and we’ll show you that dreams really do come true. Rocky Balboa said it best at the end of Rocky IV, “if I can change, then you can change, and if you can change, we all can change.”
peace and love,