Madison Williams will graduate from the University of Washington in Seattle in June. If you’d told her ninth grade self that she’d not only finish high school but also succeed in college, she might not have believed you.
Williams was struggling to succeed at her school in the Lake Washington School District because an autoimmune disorder she has affected her attendance, which in turn affected her grades. A relative steered her towards Northshore’s Secondary Academy for Success, the district’s alternative high school for students who need a more individualized school program to succeed. By the middle of ninth grade, Williams was enrolled at SAS.
“Without SAS I’m not sure I would’ve graduated or continued on with my education. They worked with my attendance, my horrible grades from the beginning of the year, my floundering work ethic, and helped me become a responsible and successful student,” Williams wrote by email, adding, “Also, I am admittedly weird and they let me be me. SAS taught me to be self-sufficient and responsible for my work, which has definitely proved helpful in university.”
With the encouragement and support of SAS staff, not only did Williams graduate in 2010, she was accepted into Cascadia Community College, and was awarded about $20,000 in Woodinville Rotary scholarships.
“I never expected to get a scholarship. I never really thought I would go to a four-year college while I was in high school; although I wanted to, it would’ve been a real struggle, with loans and work and such,” Williams wrote.
Receiving the scholarship assured her that she was a smart and capable person who could make it in higher education and allowed her to make it through four years of higher education debt free.
“It has truly been a blessing. Doing so well in my undergraduate schooling has assured me that I can succeed in graduate school, which I don’t think I would’ve even really thought about had I not received the scholarship,” she wrote.
Eric Greenwood, president of Woodinville Rotary, wrote by email, “Providing a scholarship to Maddi Williams let her know that this community is willing to invest in her potential; it also, hopefully, assisted her great academic success by allowing her to focus on her studies; and, lastly, it prevented Maddi from graduating from college with a mountain of college loan debt from which to pursue her dreams.”
Williams initially chose a psychology major because she wanted to work with the adult homeless population in a clinical setting and thought the major was a good start.
An opportunity to give back to her high school alma mater as a counseling intern helped change her plans post-college. Since January, Williams has been interning 12 hours a week at SAS, assisting in the classroom, working one-on-one with students, and assisting in the counseling office, where the experience has helped confirm the path she wants her career to take.
“I really enjoy working with the high school population. I really like the idea that I could positively impact students and see positive impacts, while other career paths I was contemplating would’ve been less hopeful,” she wrote.
According to Williams, she’s always known she wanted to work in mental health as a counselor, but SAS gave her the opportunity to find the population and setting that she would like most to work with.
After graduation, she wants to take a year off from school and work as a paraeducator or behavioral technician before hopefully returning to the UW to pursue a masters in school counseling and becoming a school counselor. Working for a year will help her save money for grad school, she wrote.