Name: Sonquez Williams
Where were you born and raised?
What is your occupation?
“Chief Executive Officer at Boys and Girls Clubs of Gadsden/Etowah County.”
What made you decide to work in your field?
“I was a “Club Kid” since the age of 6. I had many different ideas about what I wanted to do with my life, but this is a calling and a natural fit. I truly love what I get to do every day.”
Tell us about your family and pets.
“I have a beautiful wife, Ayana. She is the Director of the Tallatoona Head Start Program in Rome, Ga. My seven-year old son Heisman is a budding scientist, who dreams of being a zoologist with the Atlanta Zoo, and he loves the club even more than I did as a boy. We also have a three-year old daughter, Beloved, who is the cutest girl ever, and she loves to sing and dance. We currently don’t have any pets, mainly because we won’t allow our son to own a panther.”
Describe an average day in your life.
“Whew! What is average!? I am normally awakened at 5 a.m. by my wife as she makes her daily commute to Georgia. I spend a few minutes catching up on anything that happened in the world of sports over the last six hours, and I read an inspirational text and scripture from a ministry friend. Before my team (son and daughter) and I head to school, daycare and work, I normally spend my moments working on a grant, speaking to a school or civic group or promoting a funding event. I generally try to reach out to a member of my board of directors or a community stakeholder daily to either thank them for their efforts to make the Boys and Girls Club a great place for our kids or to ask for their support with an upcoming endeavor. That will normally take me until the end of the school day. At that point, “All bets are off!” I could be doing any number of activities! At any given time there could be as many as a half dozen activities going on at the same time, but I really love “controlled chaos,” it means that kids are learning and having fun!”
What school or schools have you attended?
“I am a proud product of Phenix City Schools (Go Red Devils!) I have a Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice and a Master’s of Public Administration with a concentration in Athletics Administration, both from Jacksonville State University. I have also completed the Boys and Girls Clubs’ Advance Leadership Program through a partnership with the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.”
What do you like to do in your free time?
“Free time? I try to follow Auburn athletics and the Boston Celtics as much as I can.”
What would you say is your greatest accomplishment?
‘Seriously, convincing my wife that I was a good “catch.” I can truly say that she has been the chief driving force in everything that I have done since the day that I met her. If she says, “I think you can…”, “I believe in you…”, or “Baby you should try…” you can consider it done. Professionally, I would have to say that being honored with the Mike Cranford Award as the top up and coming minority male in the Boys and Girls Club movement for the Southeastern United States was certainly humbling. The award was named for Mr. Cranford, who represents a generation of men that serve as presidents and CEO’s of organizations that they could not even attend as children in the South. It is for that reason that he and some of my more seasoned colleagues hold a high standard. To be recognized as a torch bearer by the people that I see as heroes within the organization was amazing. It actually took weeks before I could even throw away the box that contained the award.”
Name the one person that has been the most influential in your life. Why?
“Outside of my wife, I would have to say my mother. She pushed me when I was a mischievous boy, making regular visits to the principal’s office. She always pushed me to do my best and sacrificed whatever it took to give me every tool to succeed!”
To what do you credit your success?
“I would have to say the people around me! From the shelter that the club provided me with as a boy from some of the real challenges that growing up in the Fredrick Douglass Housing Projects can unintentionally present. To the constant push from my mom, grandma and aunts as a boy that taught me that I was special and purposed for greatness. To the influence of my church family as a boy, the only time that I ever had interactions with a professional man that looked like me. To the real truths about life that my daddy gave me in snippets. To my two girls at home (my wife and daughter) that are consistent cheerleaders. To my boy, who really thinks that I am in charge of the world, and the hundreds of children that come through the club every year that remind of myself and my childhood friends unknowingly looking for shelters from the harsh realities that they face outside of the club. All of these people push me to always want to be better than I was the day before!”
Are you involved in any service organizations?
“I am a member of the Gadsden Civitan Club and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.”
What is your favorite thing about this community?
“The humility of the children. Children within this community appreciate your time or a kind gesture more so than any other community that I have witnessed.”
What would you like to see change in the community?
“Wow! That’s a big question. I would like to see the community be more fearless. Our children want to dream big and often are stifled by the “realities” that adults around them provide. I wish we as parents would collectively take the braces off the dreams of our children. Allow them to dream big and push them to realize as many of those dreams as possible.”
What are three words that describe you?
“Big, tenacious and love.”
What is something surprising that many do not know about you?
“I initially went to Jacksonville State University on a theater scholarship.”
What is your favorite quote?
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere!” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
What is on your bucket list?
“Buy my wife a gift that really leaves her speechless (like really speechless)! Attend the graduations and weddings of both my children. Cut the ribbon at least two more Boys and Girls Clubs within Etowah County. Own a Camaro. Run a sports memorabilia store when I retire. Attend a Celtics home game.”
What is your hidden talent?
“Still looking for it…”
If a movie were made about your life, who would you want to play you?
“Michael Rainey Jr. (His characters are always believable.)”
What advice would you give yourself as a child?
“Go to Rockmart, Ga., find a girl named Ayana, and beg her to marry you as soon as possible! She will help fix all of the mistakes that you make! Until then pray more, hug your Aunt Netha and Grandma more often and tell your Daddy you love him more, they won’t be here forever!”
If you would like to nominate someone for the People of Etowah column, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 256-547-1049.