Courtney Williams may have last been a camper when she was in eighth grade, but she never truly left the
National Youth Sports Program.
After graduating from Warrensville High School in 2006, Williams found her way back on Case Western Reserve University’s campus as a member of its Class of 2010. After completing her first year and learning about job openings with NYSP, she decided to apply right away.
According to Williams, the reason she came back is because she knows, firsthand, how NYSP affects the community.
“Why not give back to a program that I know and helps the kids? Once I found out a position was open, that’s all she wrote,” Williams says. “I knew the program because I was in the program. I was used to seeing it all around campus, and I knew Coach (Harris) was an awesome person to work for. I mean, it was a no brainer.”
After graduating from Case, Williams knew she wanted to keep working with children. Before returning to CWRU once again, this time to get her Masters in Social Work Administration, she worked with teenagers with criminal behaviors, alcohol issues, and drug issues. After graduating from the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences in 2015, she entered the administrative side of social work at OhioGuidestone, an organization that provides foster care and family services to the greater Cleveland community.
Williams traces the management skills she uses in her career today back to her experience working with the NYSP. In her role as an administrative assistant, she helped Coach Harris develop the beginning stages of the NYSP aftercare program, and was able to make professional connections throughout the campus community. “I got to see how everything operated behind the scenes,” Williams explains. “It taught me to work at a quick pace, and developed my people skills.”
One of the biggest challenges Williams witnessed during her time as an administrative assistant was the struggle to find funding that the program faced after the U.S. Congress eliminated the national budget for all NYSP chapters. Because of the lack of funding, other NYSP chapters in Cleveland closed. Williams remembers competing against Tri-C’s and CSU’s programs when she was a camper herself, but now states that “...we’re one of the only programs left in the state...money is always going to be a challenge, especially when you talk about urban black and brown children,” Williams sighs.
Despite financial challenges, Williams watched the NYSP chapter at Case Western continue to commit to its mission of serving its campers. “Even if the government doesn't want to give the kids money, there are still all these kids in Cleveland’s inner city,” she says. “They need somewhere to go in the summer so that they're not just sitting at home.”
Williams continues to return to NYSP in different capacities, not only to combat the institutional racism she believes the programs address, but also to to give back to the mentors she found there, especially Coach Harris. Ultimately, she credits much of her own success to the general tenacity and spirit of the NYSP staff and mission. “One obstacle was nothing,” she says, of the financial challenges the program faced. “The train keeps moving because guess what: You still have to go to camp. It all comes back to that.”