Darrell Williams, 35, BeLit Learner and Pre-Apprentice

Growing up, Darrell Williams experienced incidences of instability and abuse both in his home and in his community. His family frequently relocated within Philadelphia, forcing Darrell to adjust to new schools where he always felt like an outsider. In ninth grade, anxious for a peer group to accept him, Darrell joined a neighborhood gang. Soon after, he was arrested for driving a stolen vehicle and placed in a juvenile home where he continued to suffer violence and neglect.

At age 17, Darrell was able to return home and attend a District high school. Motivated to improve his situation, Darrell excelled academically, even while supporting his mother who was battling lung cancer. When graduation approached, Darrell was heartbroken to learn that he was ineligible due to a missing credit. Frustrated with a lack of support for himself and his sick mom, Darrell put his academic goals on hold in order to get a job.

Working as a debt collector, Darrell attempted to financially support his mom and new baby son. It soon became apparent that no matter how hard he worked at his job, he would need his GED in order to advance. Motivated to explore family-sustaining career opportunities, Darrell enrolled in Beyond Literacy’s clean energy pre-apprenticeship program in August 2022. “I wanted a chance to better my life before it’s too late,” Darrell says. 

This fast-track, learning-to-earning program operates in partnership with the Energy Coordinating Agency, allowing Darrell to study utilities trades while simultaneously working toward his GED. Determined to take advantage of this second chance at academic success, Darrell studied hard and proudly earned his GED along with multiple energy-sector credentials, all within six months.

Having recently graduated from the program, Darrell looks forward to following in another family trailblazer’s footsteps. His grandmother, Ida Mae Proctor, was one of the first female electricians in the City of Philadelphia. “I’d like to do something that would make my mom and grandmom proud since they’ve passed away,” Darrell says.

Now a father of three, he looks forward to beginning an empowering new career with longevity. Darrell is excited to have already received an offer from PECO to be an Energy Technician, conditional upon passing their entrance exam, the Construction and Skilled Trades (CAST) test. To prepare for this challenging aptitude test, he has enrolled in BeLit’s upcoming evening CAST-prep class which covers a wide range of mathematical and mechanical concepts as well as contextualized reading comprehension.  

“I’m happy to be here. Everyone at BeLit has been very helpful and encouraging, especially on the hard days.” Darrell says. When asked if he would recommend pre-apprenticeship to others, he explains, “The program is pretty cool. It teaches you to build a home from the ground up. You’re doing carpentry, HVAC, electrical work, all in one setting. It’s very fast paced, but you get out what you put into it.”

Interested in a career at a top energy company? We can help! Our upcoming CAST-prep and TECH-prep evening classes are cost-free, on Zoom, and offer a fast-track for women and men into an exciting high-wage career. Classes begin March 6.

Fill out this interest form to enroll or learn more. (Must have a high school diploma or GED by spring 2023 to participate.)

Read the full February newsletter, The BeLit Bulletin here: https://conta.cc/3jpCkbj

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