While other kids enjoyed cartoons or played video games, Lance Williams was on the internet watching videos of Army Rangers and Navy Seals.
“My father was in the first infantry division (aka The Big Red One) during the Gulf War, Operation Desert Storm,” he said. “I remember growing up with a sense of pride that my father served in the military, and I knew at a very young age that serving in the military was something I was going to do.”
It was no surprise when Williams enlisted upon turning 17.
“I knew from a young age that I wanted to be in special operations. I wanted to be the best of the best. I wanted to do the things that everybody talks about but nobody knows about. I joined the 75th Ranger Regiment, and the selection process was extremely difficult. By the end of the course, I had a severe hairline fracture in the neck of my femur from the stress of the course.”
Only 40 percent of the original 175 men completed the course, and Williams was one of them. He served in 3rd Battalion, 75th RGR for four years with multiple deployments to Afghanistan.
“The 75th Ranger Regiment is not for the faint of heart. It was full of the highest of highs and some lows, but overall my experiences have made me stronger than I ever could have imagined and wiser well beyond my years.”
After completing his military service, Williams began thinking about the next phase of his life and turned to College of DuPage.
“COD offered me an excellent opportunity to achieve a competitive academic resume with great credit transferability,” he said. “I never could have imagined myself performing as well as I did, and I owe much of my success to the great faculty members on campus. I was fortunate to learn from many professors who enhanced my learning experiences and continued to surpass my expectations.”
Williams also applied to the Posse Foundation’s Veterans Program and was accepted, which means a full-ride scholarship to Wesleyan University in Connecticut. Founded in 1989, the nonprofit Posse Foundation Inc. provides full-tuition scholarships to public high school students with academic and leadership potential who may be overlooked by traditional college selection processes. The Posse Foundation also created three additional initiatives, including the Posse Veterans Program, which identifies veterans interested in pursuing bachelor’s degrees at top colleges and universities.
“I’m still at a loss for words,” he said. “I never thought I would end up at a school like Wesleyan.”
Williams transferred as part of a cohort consisting of nine other veterans receiving ongoing support, including weekly meetings with a faculty advisor through graduation. He is studying applied data analysis and social entrepreneurship, and next year begins in the rigorous College of Social Studies. He also co-founded Wesleyan’s Student Veterans Organization, and he hopes to host a breakout session with the Posse Veterans Program at the 2018 Student Veterans of America Conference in Texas.
Williams’ goal is eventually to earn a bachelor’s degree in economics and entrepreneurship, inspired by two brothers who graduated from the University of Chicago – one in economics and the other in political science. But having received the Posse Foundation scholarship, Williams feels pulled toward a greater purpose, such as working for the government, perhaps in the FBI, CIA or politics.
While he considers which career path to pursue, Williams said the possibilities for his future have expanded since starting at College of DuPage.
“At COD, I really tested myself,” he said. “I learned how to think critically and I really improved all of my skills, especially in writing and speaking. I just want to thank College of DuPage and all of the great support systems, especially the Veterans Services office. All students need to seek out help and opportunities, because they can be under your nose without your knowing about it and can change your life.”
For any student considering College of DuPage, Williams said to commit to making that first step.
“Talk to the counselors on campus. They are there to help, and the only cost is your time,” he said. “If you decide to take that first step, understand that you do not have to decide right out of the gate what you would like to do with the rest of your life. The most important decision for you to make is the decision to start.
“To me, a college education is more than a degree or a diploma: It is the knowledge itself that is important. I can honestly say that I never look at ANY class as a burden, because I learn something new every day that I am in class. College of DuPage truly facilitates a high-quality education with enthusiastic professors, providing an environment that makes it easy to pursue the knowledge.”
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