Antonio’s Story

Resilience

Psychologists define resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress. A part of me truly believes that I define resilience. Like so many other people that share our world, I live in a constant state of adaptation. I’ve learned all so well how to adapt and more importantly, how to out-grow my environment and situations of trauma, tragedy, stress, and all the variations of let-downs.

Imagine what life would be like if we weren’t able to out-grow our mothers’ womb – or if a seed could never outgrow its shell. We would never see the sun nor have anything to strive towards. On the contrary, we would remain in a constant state of darkness. That’s not reality. 

As a human being free from the restrictions of the womb – or a seed that’s broken through its shell –  knows: Darkness holds a mystic power that allows us to shoot down, root, and eventually spring up in our tireless efforts to rise to our highest selves. As we continue on our individual life journey we learn to tap into our will to be resilient in the face of adversity.

My Journey to Growing Home

Prior to Growing Home, I traveled down a complicated road: I experienced two frame-ups, two wrongful convictions, and a host of systemic and social rejections which ultimately led to interpersonal rejections as well as familial estrangements. At 15 years old I was framed, charged as an adult, and convicted of armed robbery. The court sentenced me to 3 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC). I was released on July 23rd, 1993. Exactly four years later, on July 23rd 1997, I was being framed again – and this time the court sentenced me to 103 years in prison. All because of a rogue Detective named Reynaldo Guevara who has been accused of falsely framing over 50 people for murder.

Det. Guevara made me question everything about life, intensifying my previous distrust for the system: Why was my innocence stripped away without due process? Why would someone degrade my character and take my freedom? Why would our trusted officials justify what this known corrupt person did to so many other folks? How could the system not protect us ghetto children? Sometimes I even anticipate being re-arrested, not because of a crime l’ll commit in my near future, but because I’m afraid I can be framed again. Will it happen to me again!? Because of the physical and emotional abuse I experienced, I now suffer from PTSD. I try to stay in-front of it.

And I did make it out of the Mountains (prison). However, I went in as a 21 year old young adult and came home as a 44 year old young adult. I lack the experiences you would get during your 20s and 30s. Those are all gone. Anything I could’ve accomplished and learned at that time- all vanished into that empty space between time – an emptiness that’s like a vortex. It just grabbed everything that could have been, and swallowed it up. It’s like an echo racing around in an empty corpse.

I needed help from a genuine group of people – and that’s what led me to the front door of GROWING HOME!!

My Time at Growing Home

I was getting every door closed in my face until I came to Growing Home. The staff took immediate action to help me get acclimated. When I came to Growing Home it was like the world opened up and the sun got a little bit brighter. But, can you really stand the brightness of this sun after coming from such a dark place?

Growing Home is not just about growing vegetables, it’s also about helping build character. With manual labor, I was taught to apply myself diligently. Growing Home teaches you how to do the basics: clock-in, build a strong resume, conduct interviews, etc. That tells me that some people who come to Growing Home might not even have the basic experiences necessary to present oneself in the best possible light.

Growing Home also teaches you the information you’ll need to bring the best out of yourself. If you want to grow and you want to be productive, then you should be healthy. You should put the right things in your body, so you can give yourself the best chance at being able to rise above your current position, to succeed on your future mission.

Growing Home takes people that believe in themselves and gives them everything they need to be what they want to become. So, it isn’t strange we hear about graduates starting their own businesses. I’m in the making. We all have the potential to reach Success with Growing Home. And no matter what you put me through, to the day I die, I’m gonna be okay. And when I do die, it’s because I found something that was fulfilling and I lived out the rest of my life. 

What I Want Readers to Takeaway

So, when we talk about resilience, what makes a person resilient? What are you hearing in yourself that makes you get up at four in the morning and go to work? 

It’s your drive. It’s what propels you, what motivates you from within. For me, I have to give back. And I want everyone to know that their story counts. 

I know you got a lot of stories to explain. You’ve got a journey that belongs to you and no one else. You might have come from a place that is good and bad. Everything isn’t peaches and cream, but it’s something that made you who you are, that made you resilient.

As Human Beings, we are resilient – even before we are planted.

Antonio is a 2021 Alumni of Growing Home’s Workforce Development Program, and graduated to find employment in the warehouse and logistics industry while looking to balance his time with his creative endeavors.  Antonio is writing poetry, designing his “Build Your Own World” brand, starting a memoir and building his podcast, ‘Voices from Within’ where he invites people currently in prison to share their stories to which he knows is essential to share. Antonio was sentenced to 103 years in prison from a wrongful conviction.  He was released in March 2020 after almost 23 years due to an emergency clemency petition to the governor by his legal team at the Exoneration Project at University of Chicago. 

If you’d like to get involved in Antonio’s creative endeavors – or host him on a podcast show – please reach out to him at buildyoworld@gmail.com. To learn more about the Exoneration Project’s work with Antonio’s case, please read the following article on the Chicago Tribune: https://www.chicagotribune.com/coronavirus/ct-coronavirus-antonio-mcdowell-commutation-20200706-bhynj6c3y5espcos56lhybmxne-story.html

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