FAMU honor family of four graduates
By Starla Vaughns Cherin © 2013 (email@example.com)
Florida A&M University presents the President’s Award, honoring families with four or more siblings that are FAMU graduates. At the Dec. 13 Commencement, the honor is be-stowed upon John and Sharon Williams, who raised four FAMU graduates in Liberty City, which shows good can come from the ‘hood.
Gerald, the youngest, graduates this month with a Bachelor of Science in Pre-Med and Biology, hopes to attend Loma Linda Medical School in California to become a pediatric surgeon.
John, Jr. a walk-on to the Rattler’s football team, secured a starting position and a scholarship. With a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice, he hopes to one day become a DEA Officer.
La’Quanda, who graduated Cum Laude, has a Bachelor of Science in Accounting and is a Wells Fargo assistant bank manager who loves her job so much she rarely takes lunch a-way from her desk.
Big sister La’Keisha has an eye for detail and holds a Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems and works for Royal Caribbean, testing the quality of computer programs, applications, and websites.
As a member of Miami Central High’s marching band, La’Keisha was inspired to attend FAMU by her then band director, Dr. Shelby Chipman, who now holds a doctorate and is the Assistant Band Director of FAMU’s Marching 100. La’Keisha says, “He instilled the FAMU culture in us. We marched with the Marching 100 during halftime at home-coming and I said I want FAMU.”
Their accomplishments are a team effort. Everyone made sacrifices. Father and mother did not buy expensive items, a new home, and new cars so they could support their children in school.
Dad working overtime at the U.S. Postal Service paid house-hold bills to keep mother’s check for tuition. All the children worked while in school studying for their degrees.
Williams says, “It means a lot to me as a man, to know that it was all done for a reason. My dad always said when he’s dead his only care is his kids are able to take care of themselves. That happened in my family and I wanted it to happen in mine. I’m satisfied with the results. My children will have a good job. Everyone can take care of themselves and they won’t have to ask anyone for anything.”
Mother Sharon Williams worked at age 13 washing dishes at Miami Springs Middle School’s cafeteria and as a nurse’s aide at Jackson Memorial Hospital when in high school. The skills learned in the child support division of the State Attorney’s Office she uses as a Dade County School Board employee and an Executive Board member of United Teachers of Dade.
Sharon says, “I came, learned my job and worked hard. I stayed to myself. I’d speak, good morning. If someone asked me, I gave them my opinion. I gained trust. They confided in me and it didn’t go anywhere.
“I wear many different hats,” she adds. “When I’m an employee, I’m an employee. When I’m wearing the union hat, regardless of who you are, I advocate for the people. If you violate the contract, you have to see me.”
It’s almost second nature to her, working and caring for people. She helped raise her siblings and later, her niece La’Tavia Everett, who now attends Shepard Broad Law Center at Nova Southeastern University. While coaching cheerleaders at Archbishop Curley High where her son played football, she inspired Fania Narcisse to enter college and took her with them when registering their youngest son Gerald.
Sharon says, “I think the biggest thing in parenting is respect. Stick by your word. You cannot be friends. You have to be parents. Don’t be afraid of ‘no.’ I tell them’ I can bring you to the well but I can’t make you put the bucket down and draw up the water.”
The Williams’ opted for private school for their sons, hoping to sidestep the pitfalls of growing up a young Black male in Liberty City. Sharon says, “Police often stop the boys routinely but the girls aren’t ever stopped. We told them, don’t move or do anything until they ask you to. Be respectful, say yes sir, no sir. Don’t go for your wallet and get the badge number. We still live in the same place in Liberty City. Anything can happen when they come home. I’m glad they are in Tallahassee.
“My boys,” she adds, “were in private school because we wanted a smaller setting, smaller groups, discipline, structure and uniforms. They didn’t have to encounter the brand name shoe problem or the pants dropping problem. My husband knew what it was like for him growing up in Liberty City. We knew what the odds were against young Black boys.”
For the graduates, of course, it’s FAMU orange and green all the way. Now that all four completed Bachelor Degrees it is poignant for their parents to walk the stage and be honored by FAMU for their work.
“It feels good, my little brothers are graduating and they followed behind our footsteps,” LaQuanda says. “I followed after La’ Keisha. We do it for ourselves but we do it for them, too. It means a lot to us to have made them proud. That is all we want is for them to be proud of us.”