Victoria College graduate works to transform disability into strength
Victoria Advocate - 5/12/2018
May 12--Eyes, ears, feet, hips and hamstrings -- between the ages of 2 and 17, Devon Williams has had 12 reconstructive surgeries.
"There was a time when I couldn't see, talk or hear," said Williams, 31, who has cerebral palsy, which affects muscle coordination. "Because of this, I lost my core fundamentals."
During his time in hospitals, he fell behind in the classroom in subjects such as reading and math, he said.
"I had to fight that my entire life," he said. "It wasn't until college that I developed those proper core skills."
Williams is one of 384 students expected to participate in Victoria College's 93rd annual commencement exercises Saturday at the Victoria Fine Arts Center, 1002 Sam Houston Drive.
Williams was born in Galveston, moved to Baltimore at 2 years old and came back to Texas at 14. He graduated from Calhoun High School and moved to Victoria at age 25.
He has worked for 10 years at the Calhoun County YMCA in Port Lavaca as a group fitness instructor and is contracted out to Trinity Shores of Port Lavaca, where he has taught classes for about four years.
"I've taught seniors, I've taught young adults and I've taught mentally challenged individuals," he said.
SilverSneakers, a sit-and-be-fit type of exercise, helps with mobility and movement, Williams said. He also uses this type of instruction with people who have disabilities.
"It's a good stress reliever," he said about working out. "The people that you meet, get to know and help achieve their fitness goals is what I like the most."
About 10 years after high school, Williams enrolled in Victoria College after his older brother graduated from the college's nursing program.
The desire to be a role model fueled his determination to exhibit the importance of education to his young nephew, Williams said.
His journey was filled with many long days at the campus' Key Center until the office closed at 6 p.m., and then he would move to the school's library to 10 p.m. when it closed.
Williams will graduate with an Associate of Applied Science degree in business management. He also is in the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society.
Graduation is a stepping stone toward reaching his goal: opening a gym for people who are physically and mentally challenged.
"You know when you go to certain gyms ... people that are disabled or out of shape kind of feel discouraged," he said. "I want a real gym -- a place where everyone feels comfortable."
His ideal gym would include a coffee and smoothie shop, he said.
"If you don't make the connections with customers, you'll never make them long-term customers," he said. "I feel that is something missing from a lot of businesses."
After graduation, he said he plans to gain more experience through upper-level management positions and shadowing a business to hone his hands-on skills before opening his own business.
Williams said how much a person achieves is based on drive, hard work and determination.
"No matter how rough it gets, anything is possible," he said. "Don't worry about what everyone else is doing. Focus on yourself."
Gabriella Canales reports on education for the Victoria Advocate. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 361-580-6578.
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