RCC Graduate Christian Williams defies all odds, overcomes adversity
When Christian Williams set out on his journey to Robeson Community College a few years ago, he wasn’t sure what to expect. But through his struggles and perseverance, he has become an inspiration to many and a role model for others living with autism.
“He embodies the definition of success in every way possible,” stated RCC President Melissa Singler. “He had every excuse to not attend college, but that’s the very reason why he did – to show everyone that you can achieve your dreams no matter what.”
During the 2023 graduation ceremony, Williams was recognized during the speech by the commencement speaker, myFutureNC CEO and President, Cecilia Holden.
“One of our graduates today is autistic, but he didn’t let this define him or prescribe his outcomes in life,” Holden said. “He has persevered and worked hard to graduate today, and I’m excited to add that he’ll be graduating with a 3.9 GPA. Congratulations, Christian.”
For Williams, hearing those words spoken over him during graduation was a significant moment in time that he will never forget.
“I looked up and said, ‘I did it.’”
Williams walked across the stage that day and earned an associate degree in Information Technology, Networking and Simulation and Game Development, and three certificates including video gaming, information technology, and CISCO networking.
“It showed that I came a long way to be able to make it to where I am,” Williams said.
His mother, Linda, agreed.
“Having that recognition at graduation, when they started talking about Christian, it made me so proud,” his mother said. “As a parent, I’m just very proud, it has not been easy for him.”
Williams was diagnosed with autism when he was just 4 years old. It was a diagnosis that could have been devastating for most, but thankfully for Christian, his mother was strong-willed. As an elementary school teacher who worked with children with exceptionalities, she wasn’t going to give up on her son and she wasn’t going to allow him to give up either.
“Failure was never an option,” his mother stated. “And so, the battle began and we started fighting for Christian. We had to fight teachers, other parents, and it was just a continuous battle… he was a high flyer, but because of meltdowns, they didn’t want him in the classes with the other children. It was hurtful, but we got through it.”
Through all the pain, came rays of hope and light – friends who would protect him from bullying, teachers who would stay after class to tutor, and therapists who helped Christian learn how to deal with the daily stresses of life – all of which have helped him to become the man he is today.
“Christian knows that if you quit, you will never be successful in life… so we pushed him, which sometimes made things uncomfortable at times, but it has taught him that life is not always comfortable all the time.”
It was that attitude and support system that helped Williams to become a college graduate, a major feat that shows how high he has soared and how much he has defied the odds stacked against him.
“I see my able, not my label,” Williams says. “You have to focus on what you are capable of doing, just think of what you’re capable of and not let your disability hinder you in any way.”
Williams decided to go into IT because of his love for technology.
“I am fascinated with computers,” Williams said. “One of my favorite classes was when we got to build our own computer with Mr. Jacobs.”
He also enjoys typing and data entry work, saying he can type up to 77 words per minute.
Another passion for Williams is drawing.
“He’s a self-taught artist and has even started his own business – Christian William’ Custom Artwork,” his mother said.
The business offers artistic services to those who prefer to have original pieces of artwork to display. His portfolio contains a wide array of drawings from cars to houses.
“He recently spoke at an elementary school,” his mother said. “He drew a gift for them to give away to one of the students.”
Having the ability to be creative is a form of expression for Williams, it’s an outlet his mother says, and a source of joy. It is one reason he loved his video and gaming classes at Robeson Community College so much.
“He was a great student, he was very creative,” stated Kenneth Stubbs, one of Williams’ favorite teachers. “I had him for the 3D modeling class. He made a house with lighting effects that had grass all around the house.”
The assignment, Stubbs says, didn’t require that much detail, but Williams didn’t want to settle for what was just required, he wanted to stand out and make his assignment the best it could be.
“He would go above and beyond in the class and on all the assignments, I was always excited to see what he would come up with,” Stubbs stated.
Williams says that Mr. Stubbs was “very entertaining, he was also very helpful and whenever I got stuck on something I didn’t know, he would help me figure it out…. Sometimes he would talk about his hobbies with students, it made me feel comfortable in the class.”
Williams also had a chance to create a video game during his time in the Information Technology program at RCC.
“It’s basically a Mario game,” Williams said. “It has Luigi and done like the entertainment system… I did have fun with that.”
Outside of class, Williams said he enjoyed sitting in the student center with others, playing video games. He said they would all bring their consoles from home and play for hours as he waited for the bus to take him home.
“He had a great experience here, he never said anything negative,” his mother stated. “He wasn’t ready for a 4-year school. RCC felt like home and he was able to get the help he needed here… the instructors would often stay over to get him caught up.”
“They were good instructors, they always had good things to say about Christian,” his mother added.
Currently in the market for a job, William hopes to find a position that is suitable for him, and that with each day that passes, he will become more and more independent. In the short term, he hopes to get a driver’s license. Long-term, Williams says he would love to live in a new house he can call his own.
He also has advice for others interested in seeking an education.
“If you think Robeson Community College is right for you, then go,” Williams says. “It wouldn’t hurt to try.”
If you are interested in learning more about the Information Technology, Networking, and Simulation and Gaming program at Robeson Community College, please contact Carolyn Watson at 910-272-3457 or email@example.com. Fall 2023 classes begin August 14.