As a child, Larry Witherspoon had all the ingredients for a successful life.
A private school education.
A safe, middle-class upbringing in Cleveland, Ohio.
A two-parent home led by his father, a well-known educator and youth mentor in the community who overcame poverty to become his family’s first college graduate.
Even with all those advantages, Witherspoon brought something else into the mix that ruined the recipe: resentment.
“With my father, our relationship wasn’t the best because he was usually out in the community doing things, and at home, it was a little bit strained,” Witherspoon said. “I had a chip on my shoulder that came out in destructive ways.”
Witherspoon’s path of destruction led to trouble with drugs, the abandonment of a Division 1 football scholarship at Bowling Green State University (his father’s alma mater), and an assault charge during a stint in the Navy that threatened to put Witherspoon away.
We just want to do what we do well and help people understand what their potential is.
“By the grace of God, the charge just disappeared and gave me a new lease on life,” Witherspoon said. “I knew if I was going to continue down that path, I was going to end up in jail or dead. I wanted to make a change and live a life of positivity and leave all that behind me.”
Witherspoon went back to college, got his degree, and eventually moved to South Atlanta, where he kept meeting neighbors who reminded him of his younger self. It awakened a part him that he had resented and resisted—the legacy of his dad.
“This feeling of what my father had done for young people really came up for me,” Witherspoon said. “I was like, ‘I have to do something here to make a change.’”
Witherspoon discovered his neighbor, Shawn McHargue, shared that dream. In 2014, Witherspoon and McHargue founded Automotive Training Center (ATC), a nonprofit that provides young men and women the technical training needed to obtain employment in the automotive repair industry. ATC students work on real customer vehicles and are guaranteed employment at one of more than 20 transportation and automotive industry partners across Atlanta.
More than 200 students have graduated from ATC in the past eight years.
Beyond his pride in those results, Witherspoon is proud that his father became the model for his life’s work.
“In addition to being a high school principal, my dad coached multiple high school sports and worked part-time at a youth detention center,” Witherspoon recounted. “I grew up with that mark on me. I just didn’t know it at the time.
“We just want to do what we do well and help people understand what their potential is. It may not even be in automotive. You can come here; you can learn to solve complex problems. You can use that in any area of your life.”
Automotive Training Center is changing lives, and Regions Bank and the Regions Foundation are supporting ATC’s mission. Together, the bank and foundation have contributed toward ATC’s training programs and a capital campaign for an expanded facility to serve more students. Through this video, see how that support is making a difference.
About Regions Foundation
Regions Foundation supports community investments that positively impact the communities served by Regions Bank. The Foundation engages in a grantmaking program focused on priorities including economic and community development; education and workforce readiness; and financial wellness. The Foundation is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation funded primarily through contributions from Regions Bank.
About Regions Financial Corporation
Regions Financial Corporation (NYSE:RF), with $161 billion in assets, is a member of the S&P 500 Index and is one of the nation’s largest full-service providers of consumer and commercial banking, wealth management, and mortgage products and services. Regions serves customers across the South, Midwest and Texas, and through its subsidiary, Regions Bank, operates approximately 1,300 banking offices and more than 2,000 ATMs. Regions Bank is an Equal Housing Lender and Member FDIC. Additional information about Regions and its full line of products and services can be found at www.regions.com.