When one looks up the definition of mentor, the name Willie Williams should surely be associated.
Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU), Graduate Student Association President Willie Williams, says he aims to transform young men all over the country through mentorship and has been recognized as a 2016 Newman Civic Fellow. The distinguished fellowship honors inspiring college student leaders who develop solutions to the challenges facing communities. Williams was nominated by President Elmira Mangum, Ph.D., who found William’s work in Leon County beyond inspiring.
“The work that Willie has contributed has already made an enormous impact in our community and is truly indicative of the high caliber of students we have at FAMU. I am excited about the great things on the horizon that he will surely accomplish in the future,” Mangum said.
Williams has been a shining light for young men across the Big Bend area and currently serves as national director of program operations for Distinguished Young Gentlemen of America, Inc., or DYG. He said he hopes to make a difference in as many lives as possible.
“If I can go all over the world from Jacksonville to Jamaica and see the same group of people are having issues, that’s a problem. How can people sleep with a problem like this?” Williams asked. “We have to do something to impact these kids,” he said.
His tireless work with youth began when he signed on to work at the Florida Department of Children and Families, even earning the title of “Social Worker of the Year.” Realizing that he had work to do in the lives of Black youth, he later went on to earn a master’s degree in social work and is currently pursuing a doctorate degree in public health. Williams’ research is based on exploring and proving the lasting benefits of mentorship and he is using the young men of DYG as an example.
“It’s a sense of pride to go to these places and provide a ray of hope. If we can go and put a mentoring program in place, we save lives,” Williams said.
He added, “They want a way out. Building these programs is a way out.”
When Williams first stumbled upon the work of Ramon Alexander and Donte Cager, founders of the mentoring organization called DYG, he knew he wanted to get involved and help take the group to the next level.
“I saw this group of 20 young men in polo shirts and slacks congregating in Tucker Hall at FAMU. Each group represented a continent and were defending how an oil spill would affect it and I was blown away,” Williams said.
Williams joined forces with Alexander and Cager to transcend Tallahassee’s DYG group from the Big Bend area to locations all over the nation to include Atlanta, Ga., Washington, D.C., Miami, Fla., and numerous other locations. With his grant writing abilities, he developed grant programs that secured more than $70,000 for the organization.
“We started looking at measurable goals and objectives like academics, community service, professional development and workshops and highlighted these things to sustain funding,” Williams said.
Last year alone, the hardest-working man in volunteerism won six awards and was nominated for the Tallahassee Democrat’s Person of the Year and was a Volunteer of the Year nominee. But Williams insists that he is merely a representative of those he serves.
“The recognition is not for me, it only highlights what is going on. I hope the awards keep coming to where I have a platform to successfully promote change,” Williams said.
He added, “I’m a representative of something and no matter where I’m at. I hope I am representing us well.”
Williams and DYG, along with Cascades Park and the city’s energy-efficient REACH Program, were part of Tallahassee’s presentation in its winning bid for 2015 All-America City. He is also working closely with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum on his 1,000 Mentor Initiative.