#MNPSVoices: Derrick Williams, Coordinator of Social & Emotional Learning
Derrick Williams had no plans of continuing his education after high school because he had a gift that he believed would take him all the way to Hollywood. Needless to say, growth, maturity and encouragement from a friend stimulated him to serve his community in a different way.
“My talent was making people laugh and this was important to me because of the many adverse childhood experiences I encountered,” Williams said.
Williams started his career with Metro Schools as a behavioral specialist in 2009 where he enjoyed serving the Brick Church Middle School community for three years. He has held a variety of resource positions such as family involvement specialist and community outreach coordinator over the course of his nine years with the district.
Williams currently serves the district as the Coordinator of Social & Emotional Learning (SEL). Through professional development sessions and face-to-face school support, he works to assist key leaders in understanding the 5 Core Competencies of self-management, self-awareness, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision making. He spends most of his time conducting SEL walkthroughs at various schools.
“SEL is necessary and essential in developing positive, productive, life-long learners who are prepared to engage in society,” Williams said. “I hold this work close to my heart as I try to model this work on a daily basis.”
However, this was not the path he initially chose for himself.
Williams was raised in Georgetown, South Carolina in a family of talented singers and songwriters. It was in middle school that he discovered his talent was making people laugh. While in high school, Williams began to embrace his passion for entertainment and joined the drama club, eventually starring in two school plays.
“I remember telling myself, if I could laugh or make someone else laugh for just a minute, that moment escapes to another place – away from harsh realities – and this would be worth the energy and effort I put forth,” he said.
The summer after graduating high school Williams had still not applied to any colleges, however, he enrolled in a summer scholarship program that offered students funding support for their future college choice. Despite this, Williams was still not interested. His focus was on becoming an actor until one day a friend convinced him to apply to South Carolina State University, where he majored in Performing Arts before changing his major to Psychology in his junior year.
“I had a sort of ‘Moses Mountain Top’ experience that piqued my interest in human behavior,” Williams said.
Williams went on to have a flourishing college career becoming sophomore class Vice President, joining the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and graduating with the highest GPA in his field of study.
While Williams does not have his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, he is a star to his wife, Shala and their two beautiful children and all the lives he touches on a daily basis within MNPS. Attending college altered the trajectory of his life allowing him to reach audiences in a more impactful way.
“Going to college was a life changing experience that has allowed me to become the person that I am today,” he said. “I believe that there is a chosen path for each of us. Sometimes we might step off that path, but when we seek guidance, we find the path that allows us to be the most impactful and influential.”