There were times in her life when Katie Williams couldn’t imagine attending college, which made the evening of March 22, 2013 all the more remarkable.
Hospitalized the day before her 11th birthday after having thoughts of suicide, Williams spent a week undergoing treatment and had two more visits to the hospital over the next several months to deal with overwhelming depression and anxiety.
Through years of counseling, taking medication and learning more about mental illness, Williams has done much more than just survive. She’s thrived, becoming an outspoken advocate for mental health and suicide prevention. Her volunteer efforts for those causes and her academic achievements at Sacramento State earned her the inaugural President and Gloria Gonzalez Public Service and Community Leadership Scholarship, which was awarded at this year’s Green & Gold Gala.
Williams was busy studying at Amador Hall when she received a voicemail message from vice president for student affairs Lori Varlotta saying, “I’ve got some good news!” She says her jaw nearly dropped to the floor when she spoke with Varlotta the next day and learned she had been awarded the prestigious honor.
“The scholarship is re-affirming,” Williams says. “I’ve gone through a lot and I’ve gotten this far so it gives me confidence and urges me to keep doing the work that I’m doing. To me, it’s more exciting that I’m getting the attention for the scholarship. I feel like the message I’m giving is a good one and its one people need to hear.”
Williams’ boyfriend Marc Moody and her mother Suzanne Williams accompanied her to the Green & Gold Gala, where she accepted the scholarship in front of 600 Sac State supporters whose contributions to the black-tie event raised funds for the scholarship’s endowment. Williams will have her tuition paid for the 2013-14 school year and she could not be more grateful.
“I had never gotten a scholarship before,” Williams says. “My parents were ecstatic. They were very proud of me and that was a great feeling because they know I’ve come a long way. I’ve really thrived in college and they’re able to see that.”
The President Alexander and Gloria Gonzalez Public Service and Community Leadership Scholarship was created in recognition of the Gonzalez’ decade of service to Sacramento State and the community, and to acknowledge a student’s accomplishments and commitment to the same.
After initially enrolling at Sac State to study forensic biology, Williams changed her major to psychology prior to her junior year. Around the same time, Williams landed an internship with the Active Minds organization. After diving into training sessions last fall, she felt called to a career in mental health advocacy.
“We did the training and I immediately found myself thriving in that environment,” Williams says. “I was telling people about my story for the first time and opening up about it. I just found myself loving talking about it and bringing up this subject that people don’t talk about. I definitely created a connection with the people I work with, and with the subject and I feel like that’s for life.”
Williams is looking to pursue a career in the mental health field, perhaps as an administrator at a mental health facility. She also plans to advocate for those with mental illness, and help to change society’s views of people who deal with the same issues she’s faced.
“There is a lot of stigma around mental illness, that these people are crazy or can’t function,” Williams says. “I have OCD, depression and anxiety and I’m managing and I’m living with it. I’ve learned to deal with it and control it and I feel that will help me, working in the mental health field, because I’ll have that personal knowledge.”
To make a gift to support students, faculty and/or programs at Sacramento State, contact the Office of University Development at (916) 278-6989 or visit csus.edu/giving.
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