‘I want to be a light to the young men’; Greensboro food truck owner strives for more, hopes to be an example for young people

Buckley Report

GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — It would be easy for Will Pettiford to take the money he’s now earning and live a nice life. But that’s not Will.

He had some challenges – growing up in a poor neighborhood in Roxboro in Person County, north of Charlotte – his father wasn’t part of his life. He got into some trouble and that trouble seemed to follow him everywhere.

“I did everything the judge told me to do,” Will says describing his efforts to get the kind of job with which he could support his young family. “I got my record expunged; I did everything I was told to do to get things right. I tried to apply for a federal job after college, everything on my record still came up so I had over 200 jobs deny me.”

Then, in November of 2020, Will bought a food truck. It was tough going for a few months but when the warmer months hit, so did his business. Now, he wants to take the money he’s earning and use it to help other young men in the same situation as he had, growing up.

He has a gang-prevention program he began back in 2013 that had to shut down due to a lack of funds. But he says it was working. “They listen to me because I’ve been there, I’ve done it,” says Will of the young African-American boys he worked with.

His ultimate goal is to raise enough money to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant that could both provide early jobs for the young men as well as specialize in providing work for people reentering society from incarceration. For those people, jobs are extremely difficult to find.

“I want to teach culinary to kids that don’t really have a trade, don’t really have anything to do,” Will says. “A lot of the kids I work with, they go off to jail, they go off to prison, they come home and they’re stuck. They give me a call trying to figure out what’s next for them and a lot of times, I don’t have nothing for them because they took the route they wanted to take but I think if we open this restaurant, that will give them something to do, something to look forward to but also give them how to make a living, doing a trade.”

For Will, it’s the natural extension of his personal success.

“You’d like to put back into the community because without the community, I wouldn’t be making any money so I don’t want them to think they just come here, spend their money and I’m not doing anything with it. I just want to show them I’m doing something positive,” he says.

See more of Will’s story in this edition of the Buckley Report.

“Most of all, I just want to be a light to the young men because the stuff I went through, the dreams I’ve had from the things I went through, I wouldn’t wish that on nobody.”

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