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Determination could be Matthew Williams' middle name.
Winner of a GlaxoSmithKline Opportunity Scholarship, Williams has had a steep climb from homelessness toward success. He credits his mother for instilling in him the determination to succeed.
Williams studied accounting at Kutztown from 2005 – 2007 but had to drop out due to family circumstances. After a five-year hiatus, he resumed his education at WCU, but made a major change in his career path, switching to nutrition and dietetics.
Sylvia Spivey, Development and Scholarship Manager for The Philadelphia Foundation which awards the scholarships, said Williams' determination was inspiring.
“Even though Matthew was forced to drop out of college the first time around to help take of his mother and brothers (who were homeless), he did not give up his pursuit of higher education and returned to school as a non-traditional student. Matthew embodies the purpose of the scholarship fund.”
The scholarship offers residents of Philadelphia County who have overcome significant adversity the opportunity to pursue their dreams and improve their lives through higher education. Added Spivey, “The committee is confident that Matthew will do just that.”
His maturity is evident in his voice. He has a plan and has charted the sometimes difficult steps he'll take to achieve his goal, which is to launch his own nutrition business tailored for underprivileged communities.
“Because I came from that background and I have been in those shoes, I can understand what that community needs” in terms of nutrition education and guidance, he says.
Williams so impressed Jeffrey E. Harris, professor and chair of WCU's nutrition department, with his “perseverance and optimistic spirit” that Harris recommended him for an internship at Chestnut Hill Hospital as a dietary aide in the summer of 2013. Williams now holds that position as a part-time employee.
“As a student in my nutrition research course, Matt Williams exhibited a refreshing inquisitiveness about nutrition evidence. His critical thinking skills and analytical skills are first-rate,” Harris recalled. “He demonstrated an exceptional ability to analyze nutrition-related scientific evidence and write about it.”
Those skills will help him counsel clients when he eventually opens his practice. Williams says he likes to interact with the public, similar to the way many of today's TV doctors do, but he expressed concern. “They're good, but they're not dieticians,” he says, explaining that consumers who rely heavily on advice from TV doctors may not be getting all the information they need to make informed dietary choices.
Although his commute from home in South Philly to classes at West Chester then to work in Chestnut Hill takes him great distances, Williams says he's glad that “I am so close to this goal.”