Like an HBCU fairytale: From Owl to Panther

Feb 02, 2018
PANTHER 2017 fall profile owl to panther
Chelsey Williams is SGA vice president.

Chelsey N. Williams, SGA vice president, shares her journey on how she became a Panther.

Chelsey is a junior from Dublin, Georgia, majoring in English education. Her journey to becoming a Panther is almost an HBCU fairytale.

"I love Claflin University, even though it was not my first choice," Williams said.

Chelsey originally planned to attend Kennesaw State University, one of Georgia’s most populated universities.

“Kennesaw had always been my number one pick," Williams said.

She was invested in becoming an Owl. Chelsey even tried out for the cheerleading team.

“For someone who spent nearly half of her life training for competitive cheer, I couldn't imagine not continuing to live out my dream by competing on the collegiate level.”

Kennesaw State’s all-girl competitive squad had been the back-to-back national champions.

"I was so nervous about tryouts. Conflicts with my high school coach led me to terminate my high school cheer career after my sophomore year of high school, so I hadn’t cheered competitively for nearly two years. When the opportunity to try out for my dream squad presented itself, I was confident that this was a sign from heaven.”

Williams, knowing she would have only one week to prepare, hit the gym with her former trainer and worked hard to regain all of her skills.

“On the first day of tryouts, the KSU cheer coach informed us that if we were not throwing at least a round-off back-handspring layout, we would be expected to tumble on the gym floor. I hated tumbling on the floor."

After breaking her toe moments before her running tumbling pass, Williams gathered herself and fleshed out the tumbling pass requested by the coach.

“After two days of intense workout sessions, I made the team! Everything was perfect."

Williams told her family the good news and a signing day was set up at her high school.

Kennesaw State accepted Williams, but they were not offering her as much scholarship money as many of the other schools who wanted Williams. After she attended summer cheer practices for Kennesaw, her dad delivered the heartbreaking news.

“Chelsey, I honestly don’t think we are going to be able to afford Kennesaw. It would keep your mother and I in debt for decades. You have a full scholarship to Claflin University. Maybe we should reconsider the school,” Williams recalled her father saying.

"I was so upset that I could not go to Kennesaw," Williams said. “It was as if a dream that had only just come to fruition was snatched right before my very eyes.”

Williams realized that she had a very difficult decision to make.

“It was between going to my dream school to pursue a sport that I loved while only hurting my parents’ finances more or to go to a school in a place I knew nothing about and find my own way,” Williams said.

In August 2015, Williams moved in to Kleist Hall as a freshman at Claflin. She instantly became a well-known individual on campus.

"I can honestly say Claflin was one the best decisions I have made. I’ll admit that I was not too thrilled about moving to Orangeburg, but the campus was so inviting.”

Williams has joined a number of campus organizations such as A.Bevy Collegiate Group, NAACP and The Claflin University Tour Guide Association. She currently serves as the student body vice president through the Student Government Association, as well as a Claflin Student Ambassador. She gives back to her campus community by working as a writing consultant in the CU Writing Center.

Because of her academic excellence, Williams was selected as the 2017 UNCF Mellon-Mays Undergraduate Fellowship recipient at Claflin. This past summer, she represented Claflin while conducting international research in Queensland, Australia, and at the National Association of Student Affairs Professionals Institute for HBCU student leaders in Savannah, Georgia.



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