Adonis Summerville

Graphic with image of Adonis Summerville

Machining mentor, muscle car fanatic, pool player

Adonis Summerville is a senior metalworking skills instructor, but he thinks of his role as a manufacturing engineering manager. He is in his seventh year at the Jane Addams Resource Corporation (JARC), a workforce development program based in Chicago, with additional locations in Baltimore, MD and Providence, RI.

JARC supports healthy communities and economies by teaching low-income adults and workers the skills they need to earn a living wage through a career in manufacturing. They offer certificates in welding, mechanical assembly, and CNC machining at no cost to the student. Adonis, who is in his seventh year at JARC, oversees CNC machining curriculum, tool acquisition, and instructors.

“My goal is to mold students so that they can be molded into whatever is needed,” he said. “I prepare them to learn – teach them about the machine, set up and break down. We don’t want to make button pushers. We make future machinists.”

The best part of his job is when one of his students gets placed. “They see a better outlook than when they first came here,” he said. “One student just got a great offer. He will be running a machine shop in South Carolina.” 

He said another company they work with has an entire shift of people who are over 55, and JARC just sent them two people in their 20s.

Adonis’ Journey Is Proof How the Right Skills Can Transform Lives

Adonis likes to say he could not afford “to not make it.” He had gotten out of prison and was living from couch to couch and did not have anyone to fall back on. He ran into someone on a bus who asked what he was doing with his life and told him about JARC. In December 2012, JARC helped Adonis secure a job as a machinist at John Crane, Inc.

Though he loved the work, his early days were a struggle. Without a car, he spent four hours commuting each way for a job that paid $10 an hour (walk, bus, train, another train, walk). Within three years, he could afford a car, found a closer job, and earned promotions that quadrupled his pay. Within five years, he was making $100,000 a year as an ace machinist.

Adonis was living proof how the right skills can change lives in a community, and others noticed his passion for teaching, including those at JARC. 

“I turned this job down several times before I took it,” he said. “One day I was at my old high school, and there were kids who did not know where to go, or how to find a career. The way manufacturing has turned my life around, I felt like it was my duty to go back and teach the next generation. It’s about helping the next person. And I have come across people like me.

“My goal is to mold students so that they can be molded into whatever is needed,” he said. “I prepare them to learn – teach them about the machine, set up and break down. We don’t want to make button pushers. We make future machinists.”

He goes beyond a traditional training curriculum to develop problem solvers. “I want them to be knowledgeable enough about the machines that they can become troubleshooters,” he said. “That’s where they become valuable and earn job security, advancement, and higher pay.”

Graphic showing three things that make for Adonis' perfect day.
Image of Adonis Summerville with his family

IACMI and the ACE Training Program Make A Big Impression

His introduction to the Manufacturing USA network was at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UT) for a CNC summer boot camp for America’s Cutting Edge (ACE). ACE is a national training initiative that is part of IACMI-The Composites Institute, in partnership with the Defense Department's Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment program, the Energy Department’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and UT. ACE provides free online training and hands-on, in-person training, to put people on a career path in the machine tool industry. Developed by UT Engineering Professor Tony Schmitz, the program requires no prior training or experience.

Adonis attended as an instructor, but he jumped at the chance to experience it as a student. “When you’re a trainer, you’re expected to observe,” he says, “but it’s always best to get hands on. I felt I could explain and teach it better if I went through it first.” 

He said he was blown away by the ACE program and the Fusion 360 software, and he has incorporated some of it into his training. The biggest advantage is being able to use CAM or CAD applications in the same cohort. JARC is looking at incorporating the ACE curriculum at their new operation in Rhode Island.

He also has enjoyed learning about how additive manufacturing can work in tandem with traditional machining. Instead of cutting large amounts of material from a blank for several hours, you can use a 3D printer to make a more appropriate sized workpiece and then machine it to your desired precision. It’s a more efficient process.

His motivation begins at home

While Adonis is passionate about helping others build a career, he says his biggest motivation comes from home. “I have 5 awesome kids that love to terrorize me, call me old, and ask me for everything under the sun. They are my biggest motivation,” he said."I didn’t grow up in a house surrounded by love. I didn’t want their upbringing to be like mine. I am going to be the dad who stuck around."

Graphic of Adonis Summerville's quote to 14yo him: “Get into manufacturing as soon as you turn 18. It’s a great career.”  “Machining is like making music. You hear the whistle of the flutes when it’s cutting, the sound of the coolant, the air regulator pushing out air every few minutes. It’s like an opera.”

The muscle car fanatic

Adonis is a car fanatic, which is a bit ironic as he recently sold his car as part of becoming debt free. (“I’m about smiles per gallon now.”) He likes muscle cars with V8s - he says they are just a big machine on aluminum blocks. “You can bore them within a certain tolerance and a certain torque.”

His favorite is a ‘72 Chevelle, or maybe a Dodge Challenger Hellcat, or a Cobra Mustang. “The smart, logical person in me is getting a Camaro with a modified exhaust,” he said. “But as soon as the kids are out of the house, it’s a Corvette.”


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