Nadia Williams was one of four young people in the Philadelphia area to receive GlaxoSmithKline’s prestigious Opportunity Scholarship award for 2014.
The scholarship recognizes young people who have overcome significant adversity and hardship, and helps them pursue their future educational and professional goals.
For Williams, her hardships stemmed from struggling with her identity and living in a home environment that was often not accepting. She was unsure of herself — she experienced depression, anxiety and, ultimately, her family sent her to a behavioral-health facility.
“I would say that sometimes I forgot to put myself before others,” Williams said. “I’ve always been raised very strict Christian, so sometimes I didn’t feel like I could really be myself.”
However, Williams didn’t let her circumstances affect her spirit. After being rejected by her family, she eventually moved out of her home and in with her grandmother.
While school can often be a difficult place for LGBT youth, Williams worked hard to find opportunities to succeed and be accepted in high school. She was able to participate in LGBTQ groups and become the captain of her high-school volleyball team.
With the GSK Opportunity Scholarship, Williams will be able to continue her educational successes on the collegiate level.
“This scholarship means that I can be the first in my family to go to college and actually finish,” Williams said. “College will give me a stability that I’ve never really had, so I’m excited about that.”
Williams will be using the GSK scholarship to attend Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where she will be majoring in psychology. At a ceremony for scholarship recipients at GSK headquarters in South Philadelphia, Williams discussed her personal setbacks and how they made her want to help other young people.
“After college I hope to work at the Mazzoni Center, or maybe have my own nonprofit organization to help LGBT youth,” she said.
Williams reflected on her experiences growing up and struggling with her identity, urging other youth to harness the resolve that she did.
“A lot of times you just have to keep going. Look beyond your current situation and realize that there really is something good out there.”
To learn more about the GlaxoSmithKline Opportunity Scholarship program, go to http://us.gsk.com/en-us/about-us/us-community-partnerships/gsk-opportunity-scholarships/.
Matty Bennett, 23, is pursuing a master’s of fine arts in creative writing from Virginia Tech.