“Every morning, I’m in the car by 5:15 a.m. to come here and teach these kids how to work in construction.

“I do it because I love my job. I’m happy every day when I come to work. But I also do it because they risk everything to come here. And a lot of times they just don’t know how brilliant they are until they get in an environment like this where they can really use their minds.

“These are kids with a high school diploma or a GED. They have no money to go to college. But at the end of these 10 weeks they have jobs paying $13 to $15 an hour. They’re going to have an edge. And it’s not just a job, it’s a career. It’s one that they can love and be proud of and advance in.

“I teach them the books, and then I teach them life. I teach them the real world, and then I teach them the real, real world. And a lot of times they are coming from homes where they’ve been told they’re no good, so they start to believe it, and I have to work to get them to believe in themselves again.

“To see them come in here knowing nothing about this field and then leave with that pride is very satisfying to me. It’s tough to get a job out here [in Chicago]. No doubt about it.”

Manny Cunningham
Chicago, Illinois
Project H.O.O.D. Skilled Trades Program
Associated Building and Contractors, Inc. – Illinois Chapter