He shares a name with a certain detective, but there’s no mystery to the success of this Westside Works graduate.
From the beginning, Westside Works has been in the business of second chances. And boy did Nicholas Holmes ever need one.
When Nicholas – aka Sherlock, his given middle name – entered the second Construction Ready class in July 2014, he was only a few months removed from prison.
He had bounced around in a few jobs, just struggling to make ends meet, and was about to accept another one. Then he talked to Sharon Maddox at New Hope Enterprises, a local non-profit that had been helping him get back on his feet.
“She said, ‘I don’t think you should take that $11 an hour job. We have this new partnership with Westside Works and I think you’re a great candidate for it,’” Nicholas recalls. “I am so glad I listened to her.”
He went through the four-week curriculum, was offered a job as a carpenter’s apprentice with Anning-Johnson, and has been making up for lost time ever since.
Since August 2014, Nicholas has completed a two-year apprenticeship program, gotten married, welcomed a baby daughter into the world, and bought a house. He’s now in leadman training, the next step toward becoming a foreman.
“With my background and history, I never could have imagined I would be where I am now,” he says. “You name it, I’ve probably tried it. Looking back, I’m surprised I’m still alive.”
He’s not kidding. Growing up in Atlanta and nearby Griffin, Nicholas had trouble at home – an absentee father, a bipolar mother lost to suicide – and on the streets. He was selling drugs and robbing businesses before he was even out of his teens.
A string of prison stays ensued throughout his 20s and early 30s, the last one at Montgomery State Prison in Mount Vernon. It was there, Nicholas recalls, that he hit bottom.
“I was tired and I decided I didn’t want to live like this anymore,” he says. “I was raised in the church, and I guess it was time for me to come back. I started talking to God and I broke down and cried and asked him to help me change. And I asked him to send me a woman, someone who would love me.”
Both prayers were answered. The latter came in the form of Amy, a counselor at the prison. Nicholas contacted her after his release, expressed his interest, and they began dating. They were married in August 2015.
“I thought, ‘That’s a fairy tale, that couldn’t happen to me,” he recalls. “But it did, and I give it all to God. I thank him for my wife. Without her, I would have failed.”
Just as Amy believed in him, so did Nicholas’s employer. He left an indelible impression on Anning-Johnson’s Edwin Parra the first time they met.
“What made him stand out was his attitude,” Parra says. “Despite having this troubled past, he was extremely positive, had a big smile. He had turned his life over to God and really wanted to take his life in a positive direction, and that was very apparent when I met him.
“I was willing to give him a shot just on his attitude alone. He had no experience, but considering his personality and his attitude, he seemed like someone we could mold into a long-term employee.”
Nicholas is a great example of what makes Construction Ready work. Offer a disciplined, hands-on training program and that all-important second chance; it’s up to the student to do the rest.
“One thing we’ve found,” Parra says, “is when you pair up an individual who is hungry for an opportunity, with a company that is hungry to give those opportunities, that’s a formula for success. All we did was open a door. Nicholas took the steps necessary to get to the next level each time, and that’s why he’s had the success he’s had.”