Making a positive and impactful difference in the lives of youth has always been the passion and drive behind the out-of-school time work Marhonda Williams does.
"Being able to give a young person something they need to succeed, or just to make them smile, is rewarding and makes the hard work that goes into youth development careers all worthwhile," said Williams, who is the Youth Development Manager for Montgomery County Recreation in Columbia, Maryland. "I know I can help in so many ways and that help can make all the difference to a young person—that is my why."
Williams' path to working OST is not a traditional one.
"Growing up in a small town in Southern Virginia, I did not go to afterschool programs or camps as a youth and the only thing that I knew of recreation departments was basketball programs," she said.
As Williams approached high school graduation, she knew she wanted to work with youth in some capacity, but that she did not want to be a teacher.
"I enjoyed sports as a high school athlete and decided that I would study kinesiology and focus on becoming a youth sports therapist," said Williams. "After attending a semester or two at James Madison University, I realized that Recreation Management was a degree and it checked all the boxes for me. I could have fun but still have the business/administrative part of work and there were so many career pathways in the field, including afterschool programs."
After receiving a bachelor's of science in recreation, Williams began her career and developed a passion for the afterschool field.
"I worked for the City of Newport News Parks, Recreation & Tourism for 10 years, starting as a frontline site director at a before and afterschool licensed program at an elementary school and ending as a program supervisor over community-based programs," Williams said. "I moved to Maryland seven years ago—for love, mostly, but also for new opportunities to stretch myself in my career—and have worked for Montgomery County Recreation, where I moved from recreation specialist overseeing four afterschool programs for middle and high school youth, to the manager of the youth development team."
Williams says every day is different and every challenge is unique, but she loves every minute of it.
Early on in her career, Williams was fortunate to attend several of NAA's Annual Conferences. She was amazed by the opportunities NAA provided and the large network of afterschool professionals she was introduced to.
"Information gathered and learned through those sessions have helped shape who I became as a professional working with youth," Williams explained. "Currently, NAA, through its trainings, webinars and website content, has offered support and continued learning and has helped me stay on top of current trends in our industry. The enewsletters are full of relevant content which have helped me stay creative in my programming efforts."
"For this past year with the pandemic, the guidance and opportunities to hear others stories of perseverance in continuing to engage youth has been a tremendous asset."
To connect to more afterschool professionals around the country, upgrade to an Executive membership today. Look for more "Stories That Shape Us" experiences and perspectives in upcoming enewsletters.
Courtesy of NAA.