|Family members touch memorial brick honoring Local 447 member Joshua Gonzalez, who thrived in an IAM apprenticeship program until his untimely death at age 20.|
Among the names added to the IAM Workers Memorial this year was New York Local 447 member Joshua Gonzalez, 20, who was killed in an auto accident. Gonzales was working his way through an IAM diesel technician apprenticeship program that his mother, Norma Eneri Gonzalez-Castillo, says provided her son with mentors and a structure that helped turn his young life around.
In a heartfelt letter of thanks, Ms. Gonzalez-Castillo provides the last word on the value of this apprentice program to one young member and his family. The letter, with her permission, is reprinted below:
To: Port Imperial Ferry Corp, NY Waterway, IAMAW and Local Lodge 447
I want to thank each of you for the support you provided my family during the untimely death of my son Joshua. Before he entered the Diesel Tech Apprenticeship Program, I believe my son felt a bit lost and angry due to having an absentee father and the struggles we went through during his childhood. This led to him succumbing to peer pressure and getting into trouble during his late teens. Nevertheless, some of his teachers, family and friends saw his heart, charisma and potential, and pushed him to do better. It was then that he applied to the apprenticeship program.
After he was accepted into the apprenticeship program, he started to “dream” again. Having this structure in his life, especially doing something which he enjoyed, gave him purpose and fueled his drive to succeed. Joshua had no real father figure, but he found mentors at NY Waterway and Local Lodge 447 who took the time to teach him and encourage him. It was great seeing my son excited when he came home, telling me about when he learned something new or was told he did a job well done. This motivated him to get up at 5 a.m. to walk over a mile to catch the train for work! He not only started writing his dreams and aspirations, but he started following up on them as well. At the age of 20, he had his own apartment, his own car, and was learning to budget and set achievable goals… more than most adults these days. He was becoming a man. I was very proud of him.
You never know the impact that your actions will have in a person, especially a young one. I hope and pray that these apprenticeship programs continue and that you’ll take the time to mentor someone else. These opportunities can help change lives for the better. Thank you all for taking the time to pour into the life of my son in a positive way while he was on this earth; and for your support and sympathy to the family after his death. We are forever grateful.
Norma Eneri Gonzalez-Castillo