Alicia Williams uses her compassion and connections to bring educational programming to Penn State Altoona.
By: Marissa Carney
Alicia Williams’ passion for victim’s services comes from her husband. The two have been together since they were 15 and married in 2019. “I didn't have the easiest childhood, but he had one that was far worse than mine,” she says. “It’s hard to believe children can go through but still overcome the things he did. I've seen him develop into a person I want to be.”
Williams says her husband often tells her that without her by his side, without her support, he doesn’t think he would have survived. "That has been so rewarding for me—it’s made me feel whole.” So, Williams took those feelings and applied them to her career path.
“That's where I see myself making a difference. I've experienced things in my life. I've seen things that my husband has experienced, and I don't want those things to happen to other children.” Williams knows she can’t save every child, but she wants to be that trusted person a little boy or girl can talk to when something is wrong or they have no one else.
Alicia Williams (R) and Ashley Gay-Vocco, director of Family Services Incorporated Victim Services Program, with items collected during Domestic Violence Awareness Month activities.
Employed with Family Services Incorporated in Blair County, Williams is already on her way. The agency provides services to individuals and families in Blair County, including shelter and specialized housing, victim services, counseling, and prevention programs. It’s a perfect fit for Williams, who works in the teen shelter.
As passionate as Williams is about advocating for children, she also puts herself into her own college community as a champion for her peers.
She is president of Kappa Omicron Nu and the college’s HDFS student group. “We get our degrees, we do our application hours and our volunteering, and then we do our internship, but we have to do those things. As an HDFS student, I feel a sense of obligation to serve others outside of class requirements.”
Connections with Family Services and Penn State Altoona allowed Williams to bring relevant programming to campus and reach out to fellow students who may be in need or trouble. In October 2021, Williams was able to hold a Domestic Violence Awareness Month event. “Domestic violence doesn’t just impact married people. It can be a boyfriend and a girlfriend in the same residence hall or an apartment near campus. It can be 18 and 19-year-olds who have been in a relationship for six months and don’t understand the warning signs yet."
An education specialist from Family Services was on hand to talk about topics related to domestic violence, answer questions, and hand out contact information. Purple ribbons were sold, and pamphlets were available. Williams also set up a collection box for items and supplies that were then donated to Family Services. “Not only were we educating students about a serious topic, but we also were getting them involved with a community organization that offers services to them.”
In April, Williams and Family Services are partnering again to bring a program to campus for Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Events will take place every day throughout the week of April 25 to bring attention to and educate on an issue affecting hundreds of thousands of college students a year. There will be speakers, a lunch and learn, a sex-ed boot camp, and participation in the Clothesline Project.
Williams is proud of what she could bring to campus, and she encourages other students to get involved with serving the community. “If all you did was sit in class, sit in your room, go to work, and you didn't interact at a university level and meet people, it's a huge loss for you. You don’t get that time and those opportunities back.”
Married with three children, including a newborn, working full-time, and attending college full-time is a lot to handle. But nothing will stop Williams from achieving her goals. She is scheduled to graduate from Penn State Altoona in May, then plans to get a master’s degree and eventually a doctorate in social work focusing on trauma-informed care.
“Throughout my time here, all of my professors have been so encouraging and supportive. They’ve kept me on track and helped me believe in myself. I’m excited to get out there and do good things with my degree.”