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Denise Williams' Story

Denise Williams  

Denise Williams is a trailblazer in her family.

The divorced mother of three children started attending St. Louis Community College-Forest Park in 2009 to inspire those children to go to college. Other family members had started college, but did not finish.

“I had to lead the way,” said Williams, 50. “I told myself I am going to do this, no matter how long or how hard it gets. Going to college is hard work.”

Returning to school after a 24-year absence is difficult. It’s even more difficult with a learning disability, which Williams has.

“I am a slow learner. It impacts how I learn and comprehend the lesson that is being taught,” Williams said. “I need a dictionary to help me spell many words. For example, while the professor is giving a lecture, sometimes I need my dictionary to spell out certain words.

Through Forest Park’s Access office, Williams’ books are on CD. She gets extended time on tests and out-of-class testing. Note taking services are provided, and she also records lectures.

“If you have a disability you can get the support you need from the Access office to successfully complete college,” Williams said. These services have really helped me to be successful. Reading along with the CD and listening to it over and over helps me. Taking my time on tests and not rushing is really good for me.”

Williams said her instructors at Forest Park are determined to make sure students are successful in their studies. 

“It is not uncommon to see instructors working side by side with students, taking time out of their busy schedules assisting study groups,” she said. “It is an environment where learning is fun, humorous and compassionate.” 

Williams also is grateful for Access office staff members, who go that extra mile to ensure she has everything she needs to complete this leg of her educational journey.

“All of the staff in the Access office have guided me along the way from greeting me with friendly faces, suggesting classes, and getting the equipment I needed to be successful in my studies,” she said. “Kathy Stone has been very patient with me, teaching me how to use the different equipment and I cannot thank her enough for all she has done.” 

Williams, whose major is general transfer studies, will complete her associate degree this fall. She plans to continue school and earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

“I want to open my own cleaning company,” said Williams, who has been a custodian for 18 years with the St. Louis Public Schools. “I wanted my children to have a better life than I, so I started college to show them how it could be done. I am hopeful that by going to college new doors of opportunities will open up for my family and me.”