By Ed Weirauch
Williamson senior Raymere Stewart personifies motivation.
In his short life, Ray has repeatedly been challenged, yet he consistently comes out on top. “I feel like I’m the rock, the one to set an example for my younger brothers and sisters.”
Ray grew up in a tough neighborhood in Wilmington, DE, facing daily challenges that have become common in cities throughout the US: crime, poor housing, troubled schools and dangerous street life. For many young men, this is an environment of low expectations and perceptions of inevitable failure.
Instead, Ray is a rising star, already accomplished but seemingly not conscious of his own ability to withstand difficulties that others see as roadblocks. While overcoming obstacles as a youngster, his strong motivation was already driving him on those tough days.
As a 9-year-old, Ray got left back while his twin brother progressed to 4th grade. “I looked at him and thought ‘I’m not letting this happen ever again, I’m never again going to watch from the sidelines.’” He started taking his education more seriously and remembers maturing really fast.
“My parents were always working two jobs, so I looked after my brothers and sisters, tried to keep them focused too. I didn’t want them to repeat the cycle” of poverty.
As a senior at Howard High School of Technology in Wilmington, Ray’s shop teacher had noticed his family orientation and strong work ethic. “He suggested Williamson College of the Trades and I said, ‘What’s that?’”
“When I came for a tour and saw this campus and everything here, I felt free, like I had a chance at a second life.”
While the Williamson environment presented a stark contrast to his Wilmington neighborhood, Ray continued to face challenges. “My first year was physically challenging because I tore my ACL (knee injury) and some people said you may not make it. But I adapted.”
There were hurdles in the classroom too, particularly in math. As a freshman, Ray was required to participate in Williamson’s tutoring program for math so that his calculating skills could rise to match his already-developing masonry expertise. He responded well. By the end of his first semester, Ray was helping other students in the program, reports instructor Ed Gawlas. In effect, he was looking out for his Williamson brothers, just as he does with his own siblings.
That spring, Covid-19 hit and Williamson moved to remote learning with half the semester to go. No problem… Ray had already completed all of his shop assignments.
Williamson’s curriculum is designed not only to instill masonry skills, but also to build a foundation of leadership. This prepares students for a variety of positions in the construction field including job site foreman, construction superintendent, project manager and front office administrator.
Ray loved Masonry from the start and stuck to it despite his injury and extended recovery process. Now he aspires to manage projects and workers, more so than the actual laying of bricks. In fact, he’s already done that, working last summer for a general contractor in Wilmington.
“When I’m in the shop building, I feel like all my stresses have been released. I just love it,” he says.
And that love of his work was surely a factor in Ray’s placing among the top finishers in a statewide bricklayer competition in September. Ray placed third in all of Pennsylvania. “It was a great way to get the Williamson name out there. The top team gets to go to Las Vegas to compete nationally with the best of the best.”
“Ray is a hustler, a good listener and super responsible,” says his masonry instructor Phil Bachetti, who placed first in the professional level of that same bricklayer competition. “He’s doing it right here at Williamson, taking advantage of everything we have to offer.
“The freshmen he mentors like him a lot,” Phil adds, “and any company will be lucky to have him.”
When Ray graduates in spring 2022 from Williamson’s Masonry program, he’ll have all the building blocks to quickly contribute to the company he joins, along with a mindset to succeed no matter what challenges he faces.
“Life is a roller coaster and you just have to be determined and consistent,” Ray says, seeming to be unaware of just how mature and accomplished he already is.
Your support makes it possible for students like Ray to attend Williamson College of the Trades with a full scholarship that covers tuition, room, and board. You can help to prepare the next generation of Williamson Men to be respected leaders and productive members of society by Making a Gift Today.