WSSU Graduates Inspire and Encourage

December 16, 2010
WINSTON-SALEM, NC -- Ronald Williams, Jr. wants the world to see him participate in Winston-Salem State University’s Fall 2010 Commencement exercises on Dec. 17 at 4 p.m. in the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum, because he feels it’s the perfect occasion to exemplify his purpose in life.

    Williams, 30, is one of the approximately 500 undergraduate and graduate students who are expected to participate in WSSU’s Fall Commencement exercises.   Dr. Clifford A. Jones, Sr., a Charlotte minister and community activist in race relations and education will be the keynote speaker for the event.
      Because his march to a degree has been a long challenging process, Williams believes he stands as an example for perseverance and determination.

    “I am a testament that whenever in a negative situation, you can’t let it dictate your future,” said Williams.  “Even when people tell you that you can’t or you never will, if you believe and have faith there will be a way.”

    Born legally blind, a belief and faith in himself and a higher power is why he feels was able to get through college.  With no iris in either eye, he was told he would never see.  He was also told he would never be able to do a lot of things.  If he were ever able to work, he could only do a few limited types of jobs -- if anyone would ever hire him.   Others would remind him that he could never move away from his small town of Colerain, NC, or go to college, graduate or have a successful career.  

    In addition to being legally blind, Williams was run over by a car one Fall evening in 2005 while he was a freshman at WSSU and he was left for dead in a nearby gutter.   Sanitation workers found him the next day while cleaning up debris from the accident.  He had two broken legs and was paralyzed.  Doctors thought he might die and when he didn't, they told Williams he would never walk again.  He never gave up on his dream and belief he could finish college.  He took off from school to receive numerous surgeries needed to recover, but returned to WSSU about a year later when, miraculously, he regained his ability to walk again.  

    As people learned about his story and disability, he received assistance from WSSU administrators, faculty, staff and other students.  Despite several more surgeries and time off, he progressed through his matriculation.

    “A funny thing happened.  I noticed people were paying close attention to me and encouraging me to continue with my education.  They began to tell me they believed in me.  They started telling me they were inspired by me. I started to realize I stood for something bigger then myself.  I was no longer doing this for myself.  I started believing my purpose was to achieve and encourage, despite insurmountable odds. I worked hard to not let others down,” Williams said.  

    Given his challenges, his history and his belief in his purpose, Williams, a business management major, wants to own a medical clinic in the future so he can make a difference in others’ lives.  

    “I had every reason and opportunity to give up and just stop, but I didn’t and I can’t now that I am receiving my degree,” he said.  “Whatever you do you can make it. You have to put your heart and mind into it and things will happen for you.  I must encourage others.“

Graduate with the most regained focus.

  Another true over-comer is Charles Hicks, 28.  After being enrolled at WSSU for several years, changing majors, and sacrificing in other areas of his life, Hicks has been persistent in his commitment to education and especially to WSSU’s Real Men Teach (RMT), a program designed to support and increase the number of male students interested in majoring in teacher education.  Through RMT, male pre-service teachers gain a heightened visibility and preparation as teacher leaders and serve as Ambassadors for the teacher education. In Hicks’ case, the leadership exposure really had an effect.

    Because of his growth and dedicated commitment to teaching, WSSU faculty members began recommending him for leadership and for distinguished teacher training programs around the country.  He has participated in such programs in California, Texas, New York and Georgia.

    It wasn’t always easy for Hicks who had a rocky start in college.  Hicks began at WSSU in 2001.  Within two years he had dropped out.  The Fayetteville, NC native didn’t want to leave the Winston-Salem area because he thought he would never return to college.  He took odd jobs and returned in 2006 as a non-traditional student.  Since that time, his regained focus has led to positive notice among the WSSU School of Educational and Human Performance faculty.

    According to Holly Pitts, WSSU RMT project coordinator, “he (Hicks)  has made all who work with him proud. Even his family members and friends speak highly about the responsible, charismatic, loving nature he demonstrates, consistently."

    Hicks will be the only graduate of WSSU’s School of Education and Human Performance this semester.  He is currently interviewing for jobs in the North East U.S. region.

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