By John Grossi
In the early 2000’s, during the beginning days of district uniform checks, the administration team at Wilson High School had an unforeseen problem. Students were being marked tardy all over campus. The root cause? One entrance gate to the school had about quadruple the line for admission compared to all the other gates. The problem gate was manned by Ashley Williams, Campus Security Officer (CSO) and beloved school personality.
Administration moved Ashley to a different gate to try to diffuse the problem. Suddenly that gate became the most crowded entrance. The source of the problem was clear yet at the same time precious. Ashley’s welcoming presence, his personalized interaction with each and
every student, and his positive, loving attitude was something these high school kids craved. They wanted their first interaction of the day to be with Ashley.
And it’s no different today. The process for letting a student enter the school grounds is more streamlined, but the highest traffic area still runs right through Ashley Williams.
“I have a saying that kids find the love in a school,” says colleague and Spanish teacher Ted Hollister. Whether they have love at home and just want reinforcement or they don’t have a lot of love at home - they’ll look for what they are missing at school. Ashley is the ultimate example of finding the love on campus at Wilson High School.”
Fellow CSO Derek Jones has been a colleague and best friend of Ashley for years. Jones admits to finding the love in Ashley too.
“I gravitated to him almost immediately. He’s a blessing to Wilson and a brother to me,” says Jones. “I’ve learned so much from him, especially when it comes to diffusing a situation.”
Ashley’s disciplinary skills are perhaps most notable and impressive. “Everyone knows once Ashley gets to a disciplinary situation that everything’s going to be okay,” says Jones.
The first thing he does is to pull one kid aside at a time and simply listen. “A lot of these kids just want to be heard,” Jones explains. “They’ll tell Ashley what’s on their mind whereas sometimes they don’t want to talk to the admin (principals) or their counselor or whoever. Everyone will talk to Ashley. He’s more like an uncle or older brother to these kids. He diffuses situations almost immediately.”
Assistant Principal Lloyd Wilson came to Wilson High School in 2018 and notes he’s never seen someone quite like Ashley.
“Ashley brings consistent energy. He is always, always the same person. Always positive, always upbeat, always willing to do whatever is asked. He’s always willing to give his advice while listening to everything that’s involved. He’s a listener and also a doer.”
Lloyd Wilson says one of the best things adults can do for kids on campus is be consistent.
“One of the most inconsistent things a lot of students experience is their home. They have some good days and some really not so good days. For students to come onto a large comprehensive school site, encounter a CSO as their first contact of the day, and enjoy a positive interaction day after day after day – you’ve just got to experience it. The way he calls the kids by name, he’s just – You’ve got to kind of be around him to understand it.”
Derek Jones continues:
“The thing about Ashley is, he’s here for everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY. He takes time to go to the individual classrooms, he lets the teachers know ‘Hey, if you need anything I’m Ashley, anything you need you can call on me… I’ll come running.’”
“He’s same with the administration, counseling, you name it. He makes sure as many people as possible know him. Even if its non-disciplinary needs. You need boxes carried somewhere, or you need someone to contact the administration? He’s there for you. He’s like the ultimate utility guy man. He’s here to do anything and everything. He has an amazing amount of school pride and just wants the best for Wilson and its teachers and staff.”
Ted Hollister sums up the effect Ashley has on the Wilson High School community, drawing a parallel between Ashley and a quote from the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on how an individual should approach his life’s work:
“If his lot in life is to take care of all the students, all the staff, and all the admin, I think all the creatures of heaven and earth would stop and say Ashley did that job well.” Hollister goes on.
“But it’s not just his job. In every single interaction, he treats people with love and respect and kindness. His impact at Wilson really can be broken down into 1500 interactions daily and each one he does just about as well as someone can do. He makes every single person he interacts with feel loved, appreciated, and respected.”
Thank you to Ashley Williams, you are a true hero and a big part of what makes this community great!