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Williamson College of the Trades: Boys to Men

The 1,000-Day Journey - Learning a Trade Fueled by Faith, Integrity, Diligence, Excellence, and Service

Article by Lisa Roberts Cadorette, BSN, RN, MSED

Photography by Jayne Toohey

Originally published in Media City Lifestyle

Visit Williamson College of the Trades and watch intently as the students interact with teachers, staff, and each other. There’s a keen sense of brotherhood and respect, and you’ll undoubtedly come to an impressive realization – this institution does much more than simply prepare students for a career in the trades. The education that Williamson provides builds character, fosters integrity, and instills confidence. It prepares deserving young men to not only become adept in their chosen field, but to become respected leaders who give back to their community. Remarkably, Williamson accomplishes all of this while offering free room, board, and tuition for every student. In return, students agree to adhere to Williamson’s values-based curriculum and to participate in the maintenance and daily operations of the campus.

Historical Perspective
The school was founded in 1888 with an endowment from Philadelphia merchant and philanthropist Isaiah Vansant Williamson. Williamson envisioned a free boarding school that provided disadvantaged young men with technical skills, life skills, and opportunities for exercise and recreation. He believed that the core values of faith, integrity, diligence, excellence, and service should be at the forefront; those values are painted prominently in the college’s chapel. Additionally, students must participate in at least one activity per year to foster teamwork and fellowship, choosing from a variety of opportunities such as athletics, student government, yearbook staff, etc.

Continuing the Legacy
For 135 years, Isaiah Williamson’s vision has certainly held true. The College seeks young men with high character, distinct motivation, and a demonstrated financial need. Applicants are interviewed so they have a clear understanding of the rules and expectations, and each candidate must pass academic screening. Williamson does not have the capacity to accept all qualified candidates; of the more than 390 qualified applicants this year, the college accepted its largest class to date of 124 young men with an eye toward those with the most significant financial need. The students may select from six technical trades, specifically, Carpentry, Masonry, Electrical, Landscape Construction & Management, Machine Tool Technology, or Power Plant Technology. The young men study their selected trade as well as general academic courses, and they progress together as a cohort, thus reinforcing the concept of relying on each other and pushing forward together.  After three years of study, they graduate with an associate degree.

This 1,000-day journey
The journey involves total immersion within the Williamson culture of structure, discipline, and high expectations. The young men must live on campus and follow a daily schedule beginning with lineup and inspection at 7:15 a.m. followed by mandatory chapel service that emphasizes moral and spiritual values. The students then participate in a full day of academic classwork and trade-related instruction, and at night, they must be in their dorm rooms by 10:00 p.m. A strict dress code is enforced as a sport coat, dress slacks, dress shirt, tie, and polished dress shoes are required to attend chapel, academic classes, and meals. To assist with this requirement, Williamson makes donated clothing available through their Student Clothes Closet, providing coats, suits, slacks, ties, etc., as needed.

The endowment provided by Isaiah Williamson has certainly grown over the years, it covers 70% of overall costs, so the College must fundraise to cover the gap. One successful revenue-stream is the Career Fair that occurs every fall and spring, where companies pay a fee to attend. Senior students have the chance to schedule interviews with potential employers, and underclassmen look for summer internships. This year, the Career Fairs hosted 235 companies from 21 states and generated over $138,000 in revenue for education! Williamson remains dedicated to raising even more resources so that they may expand enrollment, add more programs, and present a greater number of skilled and respected graduates into the community. 

  • Campus
  • Teamwork
  • On-site Gym
  • Machine Shop
  • Electrical Training
  • e-sports
  • Masonry
  • Landscaping
  • Library
  • Carpentry
  • In the Gym
  • Molding & Trim
  • Hands-On Practice
  • Teamwork
  • Morning Line Up

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