Whitley Bailey – Proving it is never too early or late too start over
When I spoke with Whitley Bailey she was at an animal shelter looking for a dog to rescue. She had four Pomeranians growing up but she always dreamed of adopting a pet hedgehog she planned to name Winston. There was only one problem – hedgehogs were illegal in her home state of Pennsylvania. So when the 4 year-old white Pomeranian named “Winston” was placed in her arms, Whitley knew this was the newest member of her family.
Family has always been important to Whitley. She, her brother and father used to work on cars together. It was a bonding experience she remembers fondly but she never thought of it as a vocation. “Growing up, we had crappy cars, so we learned maintenance out of necessity.” She saw herself with a career in music. Whitley loved to sing, but she wasn’t sure she could make a career of that.
“Realistically, what are you going to be? A music teacher… unless you become a Brittney Spears.” Living in the small coal village of Old Hauto, PA, Whitley thought it best to be more realistic.
She wasn’t afraid to work. At 14 she waited tables. At 16 she was assistant manager at McDonalds. In high school she was everything; President of choir, Drum major in band, Cadet Captain in Army ROTC, Platoon leader for drill competitions. She played softball and basketball. “I’ve never done anything where I wasn’t the leader.”
That all changed after high school when she moved in with her boyfriend. Whitley, was captain of everything and extremely social. Her new beau was anything but. “He didn’t want to do anything.” It was an odd pairing. Whitley says “It was probably the I-want-to-fix-him syndrome.” But it became a very unhealthy relationship. Whitley was expending a lot of energy trying to help him out of his funk at the expense of her self.
The turning point came 4 years into their relationship when Whitley discovered the reason for his malaise. He was addicted to heroin. It’s a common tale in depressed towns, where the coal mines have closed.
In the same time that she had spent trying to change her addict boyfriend, her younger brother, Travis, had graduated from UTI and found a great job working on Volvos and Volkswagens. “I realized if I stayed there, I would never do anything with my life.” So Whitley decided she would follow in her younger brother’s footsteps. She would go to UTI Exton.
Whitley saved every penny she could. Her mother scoured the Internet looking for scholarships. In all, Whitley applied for $273,000 worth of scholarships and grants. She wound up getting around $24,000 worth, $8,000 of it from a mikeroweWORKS work ethic scholarship. One week before her new classes began, Whitley quietly packed her things and slipped out of her apartment and her deleterious relationship. Her boyfriend was sleeping one off, and didn’t realize she was gone for over 24 hours.
“UTI was like a whole other world.” Whitley was 6 years removed from high school so the age difference was very noticeable. So too, was the gender ratio. “It was difficult.” Especially for the girls. Whitley saw a lot of girls drop out. They had trouble handling the social dynamic. But not Whitley. She thrived.
Just 3 months in, PEP Boys hired Whitley and some of her classmates to work as Service Writers. A week later Whitley was promoted to Assistant Manager, suddenly turning her classmates into her subordinates. This was not without consequence. One day, while in class, she got a text from her boss informing her that one of their employees was sick and would not be coming to work that day. Whitley texted back: That’s funny, because he’s sitting right next to me.
Whitley graduated from UTI in February, 2016 certified in gas and heavy and light diesel. She’s also Certified Ford Specific, which comes in handy at her current job at Turn5 Inc. an after market performance modification company that specializes in Ford Motor Company F150s, Mustangs, and Jeeps. With all of her managerial experience, Whitley was hired as a supervisor straight away. But she stays close to the hands on stuff. “My office is 15 feet away from an in ground Mustang dyno.” And that’s just the way she likes it.
Whitley says she makes more money than her teachers at UTI. Which keeps a certain Pomeranian named Winston, rich in kibble.
Whitley rewrote the story of her life at age 24, but it’s never too late to start over. If you or someone you love wants to try something new, why not #GetSkilledWithMRW and apply for a work ethic scholarship at mikeroweWORKS.org