Gabriel Burnshaw thought he would apply to the police academy or enlist in the Coast Guard after high school. His younger brother, Nathanial, considered joining the plumbers or electricians unions.
Both these teens – two of nine children – ended up choosing Williamson at the encouragement of their mother, Nicole. She saw in Williamson a way to ease the financial pressures on their large family and prepare her sons for stable careers in a trade of their choosing.
Gabe and Nate were taught in a homogenous home-school environment. At Williamson, they were exposed to a group of peers with differences and diversity. The young men broadened their outlook and became socially confident. They turned out to be well positioned to face the challenges of a competitive industry, where their skills, talent, well roundedness and good-natured personalities would be valued.
It took one look on the Williamson website, with all its videos, for Nate to get excited about the school. His brother Gabe was working full-time in his father’s landscaping business. Nate suggested, “Let’s go together!”
They took a tour and “instantly loved it.” They applied and were accepted.
Now a Senior in Horticulture, Landscaping and Design, Gabe is continually impressed with the diversity of Williamson’s student body. It’s been eye opening for him, he says, to be with kids from both urban and rural areas.
“I love to talk to people with different backgrounds and hear their stories – where they come from, so I can better understand people’s personalities,” Gabe says.
Nate, currently studying Power Plant Technology, remembers a smooth transition his freshman year as he got acclimated to the Williamson culture, and dived into his academic classes and shop.
“Like many kids who are homeschooled, Nate is a very take-charge kind of student,” says Scott Chillman, Director of Williamson’s Power Plant Technology Program. “You put them in a shop environment and they’re organizers. They don’t sit back.”
“Nate does enjoy teaching,” says Mr. Chillman, who has observed him mentor Power Plant freshmen and help underclassmen that have fallen behind.
Gabe and Nate were given a lot of responsibility from a young age, says their mother, Nicole, who relied on her sons to help her. As a result, Gabe and Nate developed a strong sense of accountability and self-reliance that is reflected in their work and interpersonal interactions.
“They lead by example,” says Philip Bachetti, a Williamson shop instructor and 1999 graduate, referring to how the boys conducted themselves on a community service project during Service Week their freshman year.
Gabe and Nate took the initiative in building and installing a wooden fence around the perimeter of a historic park area. “Other guys saw what they were doing and jumped in. With their leadership, the group got more done than what was expected of them,” Mr. Bachetti says.
Months away from graduation, Nate and Gabe are well aware of what the Williamson name means to people on the outside.
While working as a service technician in the basement of Philadelphia’s famous Curtis building for his summer internship, Nate was approached by people who came to inspect the chillers. They were eager to meet the young man from Williamson.
“They handed me their card and said, ‘I work for PECO. When you graduate, call me.’ I used to stick cards in my visor and thought, ‘I can’t wait to graduate. I’m calling all these people!’”
Nate recently came across a dozen business cards he had kept in his car. “They knew a little of my character and were willing to offer me a job even before I graduated!”
“The reputation is insane,” says his brother Gabe, describing how a mutual friend of theirs from PECO Energy Company offered both of them jobs. “And I don’t even have training for that.” Gabe was told that PECO would provide him with training and that “just because they went to Williamson, they both would have jobs.”
In addition to social and professional opportunities, Williamson has provided the Burnshaw boys the chance to explore and grow their religious faith.
The biggest source of inspiration has been Williamson’s Chapel program, led by Reverend Mark Specht and 1977 graduate. He describes the boys as “having compassionate, serving hearts to Williamson and their classmates.”
Reverend Specht discovered that the Burnshaw boys loved fishing, and his children were eager to have that experience. Later that year, during trout season, Nate took them fishing. “It was a memorable time for my children, and a tasty evening meal for me.”
Nate was one of the first to volunteer for the Chapel Reader program that Reverend Specht introduced. Not only did Nate read the assigned passage, the reverend says, but he also shared with the students how it impacted his life.
“Basically, you can always grow your faith” says Gabe, who recognizes that Daily Chapel and Bible Study are opportunities at Williamson to help him and others that are interested grow their faith.
Nicole Burnshaw is “super excited” to celebrate her sons’ graduations from Williamson in May. It’s the first college graduation in their family.
“I’m excited to see them find their way in the world and Williamson has given them a great head start.
“It hasn’t gone unnoticed by my husband and me – the advantage our boys have over others that went to a four-year college and are saddled with student loan debt. It means my sons are not behind the eight ball, and can begin their journey, free and clear.
“Everyone always says to me how lucky we are, that the boys are going to college for free. I don’t see it that way. Williamson is not ‘free.’ Our sons were awarded scholarships to Williamson, and for that, I will always feel thankful and blessed, and am grateful beyond words.”
Your support makes it possible for students like Gabe and Nate 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.