Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) student Stephon Williams knows first-hand that tragedy does not always end in despair. He learned that when you least expect it, misfortune can lead to triumph.
It was his grandmother’s two strokes between 2009 and 2010 that taught Williams this lesson and, although devastating to his family, they were the catalysts that inspired him to pursue a degree and career in physical therapy.
“I watched her go from not being able to move around to doing things again on her own,” the graduating health science senior said. “Physical therapists and counselors are the highlights of people’s days. I want to have that kind of impact like they did in my grandmother’s life.”
Williams will receive his bachelor’s degree on Saturday, April 30, and will be joined by more than 1,200 fellow graduates. He will next pursue a master’s degree in public health from FAMU and says that coming to the Hill and completing his degree was not just the stepping-stone he needed to turn his dreams into reality, but it was necessary for saving his own life.
“Going back home is a trap. Many of the people I went to high school with have found themselves in trouble. I used to be just like them, but I wanted a different path for my life,” Williams said.
His transformation began when he applied to FAMU on a whim, knowing that his father and older sister attended the University. Williams’ father, Larry, graduated back in 1978 and went on to become a successful pharmacist who is now retired.
“I’m excited to attend his graduation because when I finished the pharmacy program, none of my family could be there,” Larry said. “I am extremely proud of him and his persistence!”
Williams believes he must have inherited the trait from his grandmother, whom he describes as “strong, courageous, and resilient.”
As he crosses the stage to receive his undergraduate degree and enter into the next chapter of his life, a host of relatives will cheer Williams on including his mother and father, sister, brother, nieces, aunts, and uncles, some of whom also attended FAMU. But there’s one person who will be missing – his grandmother, who is still recovering.
“I feel a little disappointed that she can’t be here but I know I have made her proud,” Williams said. “My grandmother and my parents have always led by example and taught me never to give up and I didn’t.”
The 2016 spring commencement ceremonies will be held at the Alfred Lawson Multipurpose Center and Teaching Gymnasium, located at 1800 Wahnish Way in Tallahassee, Fla.
The 9 a.m. commencement ceremony will feature Obama appointee and U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. as keynote speaker. At the 2 p.m. ceremony, graduates will hear from Florida Cabinet member and Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam.