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Meet Vaughn: ODA alumnus and staffer

Vaughn Williams has been involved with ODA for 11 years and has been on staff or the past four years. He shares that his favorite moment from the program was visiting Harlan, KY, on a service-learning trip. He also talks about meeting his best friend and work colleague when he was a scholar in the program.

Meet Vaughn: ODA alumnus and staffer

Vaughn Williams

Thank you for taking time out of your day to meet with me. Would you please introduce yourself to me?

My name is Vaughn Williams from Cleveland/Euclid, Ohio. I have been involved with the program for 11 years. I have worked at ODA for the past four years as a program coordinator and summer intern. I also was in the program myself seven years prior - since middle school. You can say I am a seasoned veteran.

Will you share how you got involved in ODA?

I was home-schooled until middle school. My parents went through a whole custody battle. And I ended up moving with my dad to Euclid around 2014. That is when I met Mr. J-Rod, who was the coordinator at Forest Park at the time. Ever since then, I've either been a scholar in the program, working for the program, or interning. It has helped me a lot and helped me mature. Mr. Joe, and even my friends, will tell you that – from when they first met me to where I am now. It is a big testament to Open Doors providing me with all the resources I did not have before joining the program.

You just mentioned that you feel as if the program has helped you mature. How would you say the program impacted your education?

It helped in a positive way as far as education. Because I was home-schooled from second grade through seventh grade there were some learning gaps when I started physically going to school and I was behind. When I joined the program after my short time at Forest Park, I went on to high school and met Mr. Mike and Miss Emma. They helped me get on the right course as far as my education and got me in touch with the right tutors. I struggled with math. I still struggle with math, but I graduated so I learned enough to get to where I am now. The tutors helped me a lot. I was terrible at math. My reading and literature skills were fine, but math was my weakest link.

How would you say that the program prepared you for your future goals and aspirations?

They gave me the mindset that I should not limit myself to certain things. When I was younger, I wanted to be, you know, the typical go-to’s, firefighter, paramedic, or doctor. But then Open Doors really changed my mind on a lot of things. There are a lot of different opportunities out here, especially with the youth and working with the schools. Now I have seen my true goal of what I want to do for the next 10 years: I want to be something in the childcare field and helping the youth grow.

Will you share any memorable moments or experiences from when you were a scholar in the program?

There are a lot of moments I could say, but my favorite moment was in 2017 when we visited Harlen, KY. It was a service-learning trip. Giving back to other communities was dope. It was a different perspective for me because I am from inner-city Cleveland. Going to Kentucky where it's completely different, seeing people from all walks of life, and being able to help those people just meant a lot to me at the moment. It was super fun. They also took our phones for a whole week. So, we had a learn how to really get along with each other.

Also as a staff member, I experienced traveling with scholars to Detroit. I'd never been to Detroit myself. For all the scholars we took with us, it was their first time going and it served the same purpose as when I went on my service-learning trip. We didn't have to travel all the way to Kentucky to help other people and communities. It was a great experience for everybody involved. I got to see my younger self while on that trip. It is cool that I got to see both sides.

Can you tell us about any new skills or knowledge that you've gained from being in the program?

Time management is a huge factor, and it should be for everyone. You must learn how to manage your time and manage yourself, to make sure you can meet your deadlines. That's a huge piece that I've learned from my time as a scholar and an employee. I knew when I was younger, but now that I have it, I'm using it in my everyday life.

Having a plan and sticking to it is just as important; also, communication skills. Overall, I've gotten a lot of skills along the way.

How has the program influenced your relationships with your peers and your community?

Honestly, the program has given me lifelong friends. I met my best friend Alexis Williams in the program. She also happens to be my coworker here at Euclid Middle School. So that's dope! Like I said before, I was home-schooled until seventh grade. The program helped me to create and build a community.

Final question Vaughn: Would you recommend this program to someone else? And, why?

I would definitely recommend this program to someone else. Especially for anyone who struggles academically or just needs a space to grow. ODA provides a lot of resources for the kids and the families too. The program is flexible. You can still take part in other clubs and sports and be a part of ODA. That's what I love.

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