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A Life of Philanthropy

Jay WilliamsLong before joining the world of teaching, MCTC Sociology instructor Jay Williams filled his nights and weekends with activities considered nontraditional to academics—he was in the trenches playing football at Princeton University.

The “face-first” offensive tackle has helped and protected his community both on and off the field.

Jay has always loved giving back to strangers. In college, he organized hunger fasts and encouraged the college to use funds from unused student meals to buy groceries for students in need. He also helped found youth and rent assistance programs in the Princeton community. His community work earned him the New Jersey Governor’s Award in 1993, an award bestowed upon the state’s most philanthropic members.

He kept up with his philanthropic work in Chicago, where he relocated in 1996 to help develop teen enrichment programs on its West Side.

“I’m moved by the squandering of human potential,” he said. “Everywhere you go, you meet a lot of people who haven’t been given the opportunity to give their full gifts to the world.”

Jay has a philosophy he follows when teaching: He will never make a student feel wrong, and encourages students to question each other’s ideas instead of each other. To Jay, participation drives learning, and he encourages his students to speak their minds.

“Most teachers agree that the biggest reward we see is when a student is on fire with passion about giving their full gifts to the world,” he said.

He puts his cell phone number on his syllabi to show his students his commitment. Student engagement, to him, is nurtured by a personable connection between students and the instructor.

“Students get out what their instructor puts into the course,” he said.

Jay was born in Minnesota, and in 2008, he returned here to teach. His father was a community leader in North Minneapolis, and Jay’s roots in the neighborhood connect him to many of his students at MCTC.

“I’ve had students tell me their family knew my father and appreciate the work he did for them,” he said. “Working at MCTC gives me the opportunity to carry on my father’s work in Minneapolis.”

Jay loves MCTC and can’t imagine teaching anywhere else.

“I love the opportunity the classroom gives students to present their own identities and struggles, and to gain a better understanding of themselves and others,” he said.

In the newest chapter of his career, Jay now serves as a Power of You adviser, seeking to both recruit and retain students through the robust support and resources of the program. He also serves as coordinator for the African American Education Empowerment Program (AME) and Student African American Brotherhood (SAAB).

Published January 2015

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