Ask people what they wish for, and the answers are often the same. They also tend to include material things like a new car, superhuman abilities and becoming rich.
For Gaston High School senior Ke’Sean Williams, however, the answer was much more personal.
“When I asked Ke’Sean if he (could) wish for anything in the world, what would it be, he gave me two answers,” said Ruth Moffatt, director of the United Way of Etowah County. “He said he would wish for a father figure in his life to teach him things he needed to know to be a good man, and to be able to go to college.”
Williams and his lawyers shared his story on Thursday at United Way’s annual meeting at The Venue at Coosa Landing.
He discussed how he benefited from his involvement with the Boys & Girls Club of Gadsden / Etowah County, which gets support from the United Way – and later saw one of his wishes become a reality.
Dorothea Rhodes, director of the Boys & Girls Club, said Williams has overcome “a number of adversities” in his life, such as having to become “the patriarch” of his family as his mother’s health has declined and she continues to face unemployment. His family has also taken in two other household members because of the death of his aunt from COVID-19.
“I have overcome a lot of things in my life,” Williams said. “My father passed away at a young age and I watched my mother work day in and day out. We never went without a meal on the table and made sure we had what we needed. I’m very thankful to have her as my mom. ”
Despite all of this, Williams continues to thrive, “in all aspects of his life,” according to the short introduction page in the United Way’s annual report.
While in school, Williams has participated in the “This Way Out Program,” allowing him to work part time at Old Navy while also being a junior staff member at the Boys & Girls Club.
“He thrives in school, making A’s and B’s in the honors classes he takes. He’s also president of the Key Club and a peer leader at his school, “Rhodes said,” He is also the recipient of our 2021 Cardinal Candidate Scholarship for Gadsden State Community College, where he is currently dual enrolled. ”
Williams said the Boys & Girls Club has “helped me come so far in life,” adding, “When I was younger, I was really unmotivated to continue to do my work in school. Through the Boys & Girls Club, I learned you could help people just by simply showing up for events. ”
Rhodes said, “With the Boys & Girls Club, we are there to help understand and support the issues our kids go through. I, too, know what it’s like to struggle. I know personally how it feels in Ke’Sean’s shoes; (he) has a very similar story to many of the kids we see. ”
Williams also volunteers within the community. Most recently, he worked at the Gadsden Kiwanis Club’s annual Pancake Day.
“I stayed there from 6:30 to 2:30 just helping any way I could,” he said. “I think everybody should at least volunteer or try to help out once in their life to see the smile on people’s faces. It brought joy to my heart to be able to help somebody. ”
Williams dreams of going to college to study secondary education; Moffatt said he wants to “help make a difference in the life of another child that has gone through many difficulties” like he has.
“After watching the movie ‘Gifted Hands’ about Dr. Ben Carson, I knew that I wanted to help people and I thought becoming a doctor was the only way of doing that, “Williams said,” But I now know that is not the case. ”
Moffatt said, “He just wants the simple things out of life. He told me that he never wanted to be a burden on anyone. ”
Fred Zachary of WMGJ Radio surprised Williams with a new laptop for school, and a cash gift of $ 1,000 “to do what he wanted with.”
He told Williams, “I, too, am no stranger to adversity. Keep doing what you are doing and don’t let anyone get you out of focus. Stay with your pure and clear heart. ”
And just when it appeared the surprises were over, Gadsden State Community College President Dr. Kathy Murphy stood up in the audience and gave Williams a full, two-year scholarship to the college.
“He is the kind of student we are looking to support. It’s exciting to see what he’s already doing, ”Murphy said. “It’s a very passionate story and very moving. If our college can help do something and let him achieve his dream, that’s why we exist. ”
“This was everything,” Moffatt said. “I’m speechless and there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. I really thought I wasn’t going to be able to continue. It really demonstrates what it means to ‘Live United’ and for a community to really rally around a situation to help bring hope come alive. ”
Williams said he was “incredibly grateful” for what he received, especially the love.
“I’m happy that people were able to listen to me,” he said, “Hopefully more people like me will be able to express themselves in a way like this.”
His mother, Jameika Brasher, said, “It’s a blessing. It’s amazing. I’m shocked. He has been through so much in his life. ”
Williams thanked Rhodes, the Boys & Girls Club and United Way for their unwavering support, saying Rhodes has pushed him to succeed.
”She’s the one who got me the job at Old Navy and (pushed me to) get the scholarships and take the classes. She’s an awesome lady, “he said,” I’m very grateful for everything, and for everything that will continue to come my way. ”
Moffatt said, “This young man is phenomenal. He is a story of hope, and he is going to bring that hope back home. ”