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When Samantha Lynn Williams was robbed of her sight in 2009, she had to step away from her studies at Wilson Community College.
But nearly a decade later, Williams was among the 253 graduates who walked across the stage to retrieve diplomas Friday evening.
“This college experience go-around for me was a little challenging,” Williams said. “It took me a few years to get the tools and resources to come back to school. And I did, blindness and all, and I managed to graduate. If I can do it, everybody else can.”
Williams, 48, of Black Creek, had worked for 20 years as a hairdresser.
“I obtained that diploma through Wilson Community College back in ‘87-’88,” Williams said. “It’s kind of hard to do hair when you don’t have sight, so I said ‘I will do something else.’”
Williams fell in love with Braille as she learned it.
“There’s not that many Braille teachers in the state of North Carolina,” Williams said. “Our students that are blind are not being properly taught Braille and I think that is sad on the blind community’s behalf because if all the public school children have a right to an education and learn to read and write, so does the blind student.”
Williams thinks Wilson Community College did its best to help her get through school.
“I was late getting my books about six weeks into each semester and I only had to do three more of those, so it always was a little bit aggravating, but I overcame it,” Williams said. “I worked hard and I caught up with everybody.”
Williams is transferring to a four-year college. She plans to major in psychology and minor in research and documentary.
“I used my English classes this past couple of semesters to go ahead and write a proposal toward the blind community on items and things that are needed that both the federal and state overlook,” Williams said. “It is my dream to use psychology so that I can show the people that have sight what it means to a person without sight that gets something that is a resource.
“There’s not that many resources for someone who is blind to go to, even here in Wilson,” Williams said.
Williams wishes, for instance, that the local library had a Perkins Brailler, which is a common machine in many locales that produces Braille.
“At our library, they have tons of computers but they do not have computer programs that type in Braille, nor do they have a manual Brailler,” Williams said. “Especially in small rural counties, they have even less than us in Wilson.”
Williams was led across the stage by her husband, Samuel Brad Williams. Together, they have one daughter, three boys and two grandsons.
“We wouldn’t have been able to do this without our friends and family behind us. That’s really what it takes,” he said. “You have got to have somebody supporting you. We have been fortunate to have a lot of people support us. I am very proud of my wife. Yes sir.”
“Today is a big day, not just for me, but for the blind community,” Williams said of her accomplishment. “I did all of this for the encouragement of those that come behind me. I wasn’t the first blind. I’m not going to be the last blind, but if I can show them that if I can do it at my age, surely when you are younger, you can get it done, too. There is no excuse.”
For anyone sitting on the fence trying to decide whether to go back to college, Williams has advice.
“Go for it. Don’t wait. Get up and make something for yourself,” Williams said. “If you are not willing to do it for yourself, then what else existing in life is worth it at that point? Just because you are blind doesn’t mean you can’t learn. You can have full sight and no vision and you are not going to go anywhere , but if you have full sight or no sight, but you have a vision, there’s no stopping you.”