The Boston Celtics’ Heroes Among Us program honors individuals who have made an overwhelming impact on the lives of others. Tonight, they will honor Boston Partners in Education mentor Wendell Williams. Boston Partners in Education is also a recipient of the Bill Russell Mentoring Grant Program that MMP administers, and a part of the Bill Russell Legacy Project that is unveiling the statue to Bill today. The following blog post about Wendell was submitted by Keri Ann Walsh, communications manager at Boston Partners in Education.
Wendell Williams is a retired prison guard and Vietnam veteran. During his work at the prison, he saw many men who had dropped out of school and never finished or cared about their education. Wendell believes that showing interest in children’s education early in their lives will help them embrace learning and have a positive attitude towards education. Mr. Williams began volunteering for Boston Partners in Education’s Math Rules! program eight years ago at the Tobin K-8 School. He has supported 20 students in three Boston Public Schools over the years, and he believes strongly in the power of public education, feeling that it is the stepping stone to a positive future.
When his grandson was four-years-old, he told Wendell that reading was for suckers. Wendell was unwilling to let his grandson grow up with such a negative attitude toward learning. He spent the next decade pushing his grandson to read and do well in school.
Today, Wendell’s grandson is an academically focused high school sophomore who plays on his school’s basketball team. Wendell still makes sure he reads with all three of his grand kids every time he visits them.
Wendell believes that all students need the same supportive intervention that he gave to his grandson. Many of the Boston Public Schools students he meets come home from school to an empty house because their parents have to work. With no one around to encourage the kids to do their school work, it rarely gets done, and they start to fall behind in class.
That’s where Boston Partners’ academic mentoring program comes in. Volunteers like Wendell spend time in the classroom helping students who need a little extra push to succeed in school. “My students can relate to me and allow me to be that positive role model,” he says. His favorite part of being a mentor is seeing his students light up when they figure out the correct answer. For Wendell, that learning experience is mutual. “They teach me patience and tolerance,” he says.
In 2010, Wendell retired, but he loves being able to stay busy with mentoring. “I tell my retired friends about the program all the time!” he says. It’s a great opportunity to offer critical guidance to kids who need it. Boston Partners has helped Wendell feel empowered to help students. He also has a positive relationship with the school community he serves. “I feel supported and welcomed at the school,” he said. “The students really appreciate my help and welcome me every time I come into the classroom.”
They aren’t the only ones who appreciate Wendell’s help. All of us at Boston Partners in Education are so grateful for the wonderful volunteers in our programs. We know our academic mentors are making a difference in children’s lives every time they meet with their students!