A path away from a hard life

Turon White

Turon White’s life could have gone any number of ways. After graduating high school in Virginia Beach, he returned to his Portland roots to find work. The pressures to go to college were heavy, but White wasn’t sure he wanted that life. He knew for certain he didn’t want a desk job, sitting in front of a computer all day. He didn’t want to end up flipping burgers in the back of a fast-food place. And he definitely didn’t want to follow the route he saw his housemates taking—a path of drug abuse and the underground economy.

Above all, he wanted more than just a job but a career path with the chance to earn more than minimum wage and opportunities to grow into leadership roles. But what options exist for an 18-year-old kid with no college degree?

“Construction wasn’t really an avenue of thought for me,” White says. But it turned out to be exactly the career path he needed. “I loved it. I like being outside in the elements, I like being able to walk around, and if a pedestrian’s walking by, I like being able to talk to them about what’s going on. I can be social and still work.”

The path hasn’t been easy, especially because he started his career without any background or experience in construction. He had to learn the basics from the ground up, and he also had to grow up fast. “Everyday I’m out [on the jobsite], I’m learning something new, especially about how to be a man in society and in the world. Coming here at 18, I was very young in the mind, and it grows you up a lot to be out here with other grown men, seasoned guys—guys that don’t take crap.”

Read more of Turon White’s story or watch a video.