Keffery Williams hopes to become a lawyer and, ultimately, argue cases before the U.S. Supreme Court someday. Of course, first he has to complete his undergraduate studies and earn a law degree. But no one who knows him doubts for a second that he’ll make it.
A second-year liberal arts major at BMCC, Williams is a recipient of the Peter Jennings Scholarship Laurel Award. The award, which carries a $1,000 stipend, recognizes outstanding CUNY students who have earned a General Equivalency Diploma through a special CUNY program. It is named for the late ABC News journalist – himself a high school dropout who never earned a college degree.
For Williams, the road to BMCC has been neither straight nor smooth. Born in Kingston, Jamaica, he developed asthma as a young child and was sent to live with his grandparents in the countryside.
“I had a perfectly normal childhood – until I was 12, when I was diagnosed with epilepsy,” he recalls. “It was severe enough for my parents to bring me home to Kingston so I could get treatment.” Young Keffery’s health issues interrupted his education, and by the time he joined his mother, who had moved to New York, he had yet to complete high school.
“I came to the U.S. with a dream,” Williams says. “I wanted to study constitutional law – and, someday, to become a U.S. Senator, even though I knew that was a long shot.” With his mother’s encouragement, Williams enrolled in BMCC’s GED program.
“A lot of our GED students start out with tremendous drive and determination, but Keffery really kept at it,” says Wayne Carey, head counselor for the college’s Adult Continuing Education Program. “He was constantly in my office or meeting with his teachers, asking questions and using the resources that were available to him.”
Williams received his diploma in July 2006 and was enrolled at BMCC the following September. Last semester, he served as an intern in the office of New York City Council member Alan J. Gerson. “It was great to get a firsthand look at how the legislative process works in this country,” he says.
Williams won’t be the first lawyer in his family. In fact, an aunt holds a degree in political science and three of his uncles have served in Jamaica’s parliament. “Politics is in my blood,” he says.