The slam of a prison cell can sound a lot like closing the door on a successful future, but for William Chatman bars and shackles felt more comfortable than freedom.
“In ’98 i got a letter saying I was getting out of prison early, and it scared the hell out of me,” explained Chatman.
He doesn’t try to hide anything behind his sport-coat and button down. If you ask Chatman anything about his past, he’ll tell you about it.
“I paroled to Rockford from prison and moving to Rockford, couldn’t find a job because I”m a Class X felon,” Chatman explained.
What Chatman did to earn the prison time, isn’t the point, it’s what he did afterward that makes him Stateline Strong.
“I was hungry for something new,” said Chatman. When it came to Rockford’s YouthBuild, Chatman wanted seconds not for himself, but for others.
“I got exposure to different things, I got the education on how to make better choices and I also got the opportunity to do something different than what I was used to doing,” said Chatman.
Chatman graduated from YouthBuild with honors in 2002. If you fast forward 15 years to today, Chatman’s life has continued in the right direction, thanks to YouthBuild
“I currently now am the director of YouthBuild in Beloit, Wisconsin,” said Chatman.
Fom student, to teacher, Chatman now speaks from experience to those who have walked in his shoes
“I give them an example of my background, you know, here’s where I’ve come from and many people saying ‘here’s a list of all the things you cant do’, and me saying to them, ‘yes i can;’, said Chatman, “all I need to do is apply myself: hard work, dedication and getting the job done.”
Students say Chatman’s story inspires them. YouthBuild takes disconnected kids and helps them earn their high school diploma while also teaching them life skills and construction. Chatman said not only is construction a useful trade, but it’s one that is a visible reminder of what each student can accomplish and show off their results. Chatman even lives in a home built from the ground up by YouthBuild students.
“No matter what you’ve done in your past, if you decide to do something different today, you can start the path of brightening your future, but not only brightening your future, because somebody’s watching you and when you brighten your future you begin to brighten other people’s future around you,” said Chatman.