Natchez woman gives Holiday hope

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 6, 2010

NATCHEZ — When many in the Holiday Apartments complex thought they had been abandoned by God, Michelle Williams came.

Williams, who is training to be a minister, came through the Holiday Apartments with her church, but after the preaching was over, Williams decided to stick around and show the people that someone cared.

“I decided the community needed more help than just being preached to,” Williams said. “The church moved on, but I asked (Manager) Lionel Brown if I could set up an education center.

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“Ultimately, I stayed to show the people here that God is looking out for them.”

Out of the two rooms she has been allowed to use at the Holiday Apartments, Williams is offering programs including GED classes, workforce opportunities, various after-school programs for children, Bible studies and prayer groups.

After losing a grant for GED teachers in April, Williams has been working on a way to get the GED program staffed.

“A lot of teachers who have retired have said they would come and teach,” Williams said. “We’ve applied for a workforce grant, and hopefully that will get us money for teachers.”

Many students, such as Tyrone Minor, 18, have stuck with Williams’ program in hopes that it will receive funding.

“I joined because a GED will get you more than just a job,” Minor said. “It will take you beyond.

“I’m still here because I am determined to get it.”

Minor, who has no transportation, said if he wasn’t involved in the class, he’d be sitting at home doing nothing.

“I decided to not sit at home doing nothing, but to get out and do something,” Minor said.

Since joining, Williams has taken Minor’s class to the library and to Copiah-Lincoln Community College Natchez Campus several times, and Minor said he had learned to love reading.

“I take an hour and a half every day and read books,” Minor said. “It wasn’t a big part of my life beforehand, but now, it helps keep me positive.”

Fifty people have signed up for the GED class, Williams said.

“We just had an air conditioner donated,” Williams said. “They used to come in here and sweat for hours — that is how bad they wanted their GED.”

Williams has also helped people without transportation acquire jobs by taking them to job interviews and to the job center.

“The kids here had an attitude where they didn’t want any more out of life,” Williams said. “I am trying to help them realize that if they can set and stay on goals, that good things can happen.”

One of the projects Williams did with the younger children was have them draw out their thoughts about the community, both positive and negative.

“For the negative, they drew men with guns, people fighting and one boy drew a picture of the guy who shot his girlfriend in these apartments,” Williams said. “For positive, they drew people being counseled, a playground instead of the glass in the street, tennis courts and a swimming pool.

“They drew the wall with good things written on it, instead of dirty words.”

Williams said she was planning to seek donations from businesses that Mayor Jake Middleton recommended to her to help replace the nine old computers, which have four keyboards and one mouse between them. Only four of the computers are still in working condition, Williams said.

The education center is also in need of chairs, tables, school supplies and books, Williams said.

Brown said he appreciated what Williams had done in the apartment complex.

“I can see it really making an impact,” Brown said. “If she can get everything she needs to run it, I think she can help these kids turn their lives around.”