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Oct. 19, 2010
MARYVILLE, Mo. - Growing up in the inner city neighborhoods of Kansas City, Mo., Jason Williams learned to appreciate the values of having a close-knit family, a trait he said attracted him to enroll at Northwest Missouri State University.
But attending a four-year university wasn't something Williams' teachers impressed upon him and his peers. Now he's working to change that mentality and help inner city youth realize their potential.
"One of the things that was always stressed to us (in high school) was the community college, work force or jail," Williams said. "I want to encourage kids that that's not the only option. Everyone has a story, and everyone's story can inspire someone else. Maybe my story or some of my friends could inspire somebody else to follow in our footsteps. I wanted to dismiss the notion that a four-year university is out of reach."
Last year, Williams, a senior child and family studies major, founded Students Taking Action Through Service, or S.T.A.T.S., a student organization that encourages inner city youth to strive for higher education. In partnership with Northwest's Office of Admissions, students in the organization provide tours to groups from inner city schools. S.T.A.T.S. representatives also travel to schools to give presentations about Northwest and share their stories.
"We talk about where we came from, where we are now and where we intend to go," Williams said. "We show other students we were in the same position as you and we're no different than you are."
The organization has swelled from a few students when it began to more than 80 members today. S.T.A.T.S. has made such an impact at Northwest that it was recognized last spring as the University's new student organization of the year. Williams was recognized with the 2010 Commitment to Diversity Award.
Ame Lambert, director of Intercultural Affairs at Northwest, said she was impressed by Williams' drive and motivation the day she met him.
"The reason S.T.A.T.S. is so successful is because of him as a leader and all of the members he's attracted to the organization," Lambert said. "They're concerned about people other than themselves. I'm really proud when students step out of their world and try to give back. I think that's the reason he's been so successful."
Williams credits Northwest programs like Mentors Over Retention and Education and the Talent Development Center, as well as the University's engaging faculty and staff, for easing his transition from high school to college life. Williams said his decision to get involved in student organizations also helped him be successful.
"I never really knew what the recruiters meant when they said college is what you make of it until I got here," Williams said. "If you are looking to find a university where you can find a home away from home and be involved to the point where you feel like you're not just a number but a student that the university faculty and staff care about, and a student who can make a difference, Northwest is the university for you."
After college, Williams wants to pursue a master's degree and open a writing center in Kansas City where he can help inner city youths share their stories.
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468