PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Myasia Williams never really pictured herself as a college student. As a high school student in Staten Island, N.Y., she rarely went to classes. Bored because she was too advanced for the subject matter, she showed up only on test days and received high marks.
Despite that, teachers didn’t step in to help her. One teacher told her that she wasn’t college material, and a part of Williams started to believe it. Her feelings worsened when she and her mother moved to Connecticut during her senior year and she felt like an outcast in a tight-knit class where everyone had known each other since childhood.
But Williams’ rocky educational journey took a successful turn when she landed in Aroostook County and eventually enrolled at Northern Maine Community College in Presque Isle. During NMCC’s commencement exercises on May 18, Williams will be the graduation speaker, an honor bestowed upon her because she was recently named student of the year.
“I was really surprised and very excited,” she said Tuesday. “But I am not nervous at all. The people here at the college are so kind and supportive. I have never felt more supported in my life. I can’t wait to get up there.”
Williams’ journey to NMCC began after her cousin moved to Limestone to enroll in Loring Job Corps. After Williams heard a bit more about the program, she decided to join her.
“I wasn’t doing anything with my life at that point besides working,” she said, “I enrolled in the certified nursing assistant program.”
She quickly engaged in life on the job corps campus and in the surrounding community, becoming a student mentor, a resident wing leader and a participant in Caribou Cares about Kids, Ride Aroostook and Walk for MS. She also was a very good student.
So she decided to ignore her former teacher’s advice and apply to college.
“I was kind of afraid I wouldn’t get in, because I skipped all of those high school classes and I didn’t think my skills were up to par,” she said. “But I took the required tests and I got in. They told me my scores were great.”
She was accepted into NMCC’s business technology program and commuted to campus from Limestone by bus each morning. She spent long days on campus and earned a 4.0 grade-point average her first semester. She has maintained similar GPAs ever since while carrying a rigorous class schedule.
After speaking at commencement, Williams will delay her graduation and return to NMCC in the fall to complete a dual major in business and accounting.
The award-winners were selected by college faculty and staff. For being named student of the year, Williams receives a John H. Lapoint Jr. Leadership Award in the amount of $1,000.
“Myasia is a model student and a good role model for her peers,” said William Egeler, dean of students at NMCC. “She goes above and beyond the call of duty to help other students understand their financial aid, their schedules, their student accounts and the student portal. Her leadership skills are so evident when she is assisting or advising students about campus activities and events.”
Williams said that she is still amazed by the unlikely path she has taken.
“If someone had told me five years ago that I would be at college in northern Maine, I would have told them they were nuts,” she said, laughing. “But here I am, and I love it.”