When Antwon’s kids get a little older, he plans to tell them what he’s been through. A 25-year-old father of three, he’s working hard to give them all a better life.
Today, he is employed as a plumber, studying to get his GED and has completed a leadership and empowerment program for young fathers… twice. But this is a life he never imagined.
Antwon grew up in the Woodland Terrace housing development in Washington, DC where many families live off an annual income of $7000 per year.
“My mother worked on and off. She was raising five kids. She was struggling.” When his siblings’ father, who his family relied on for financial support, passed away, “everything changed.” As the oldest child, Antwon felt a tremendous sense of responsibility.
“The only thing I cared about was taking care of my family, but my mind wasn’t thinking that I could get a job. I wasn’t old enough to get a job. I was 13 at the time, and I got into street life. I was selling drugs.”
Antwon faced time in prison. While he was incarcerated, his mother passed due to a stress induced seizure.
A few weeks before returning home, something hit Antwon. “I had children, and I couldn’t do nothing for them but stand on the block all day. I needed a job. I needed to stay off the streets.”
That’s when Antwon connected with Smart from the Start, a family support, community engagement and school readiness organization. As a First Book partner, the nonprofit helps parents and caretakers become their child’s first teacher by supplying them books to help break the cycle of chronic school underachievement.
“I read to them. They like the sticker books, but I read,” he shares with a smile. “My oldest son, he is in school now. He’s got good grades. I sneak up on him sometimes, but I never let him know I’m coming. I just peek in the classroom. He’s doing good.”
Antwon knows there is work ahead, but he’s incredibly motivated. He needs to earn his GED to get an apprenticeship. Eventually, he wants to become a firefighter. But above all else he wants his kids to have a better life than he had.
“I want to motivate them to do better than I have done – finish school, get a good jobs; if they have kids, take care of their kids, be responsible.”
“It’s crazy,” he tells us, “I’ve seen a lot of things, but now I don’t even look back… My whole life has just changed.”