Overcoming Obstacles is Nothing New for this Vol State Student

Submitted on October 14, 2010 at 1:58 PM

By Amie Lara

Life is not always rainbows and butterflies, and 19-year-old William Baxter knows this all too well.

Growing up in a single parent home, with a large majority of the household responsibilities on his shoulders, society would often assume that his fate was already written.

"I help pay the bills and we get food stamps, but that only goes so far," said Baxter. He adds that his family often goes hungry. "When you do the same thing your whole life, you just get used to it."

Without a vehicle, Baxter and his mother have to walk to the grocery store and back, carrying the bags. Baxter seems upbeat about the situation though, saying, "That is me and my momma's alone time to walk to the store."

In addition to having to walk to the grocery store, Baxter had to walk three miles home from school after football practice during high school.

"He's a survivor," said P.J. Davis, executive director of the Gallatin Shalom Zone.

Baxter started volunteering at the Shalom Zone at age 14. He has been volunteering almost every day since then, and in June he was hired as a part-time employee.

"A friend told me about it," Baxter said. "My friend told me that there are a bunch of kids out there, because some kids like me don't have fathers in their lives, and so I was wanting to help them deal with their problems."

Doing what he considers the right thing isn't always easy, according to Baxter. He said a 15-year-old friend of his died in a gang related shooting. "It made me mad and upset. I did want to retaliate, but my mom said that if it was her time, it was her time. It is tempting to want to do the wrong things, but if you think about it, it isn't worth it."

"I've lost about 20 or 30 friends because I'm not doing what they wanted to do," Baxter said. "It doesn't really matter who you hang around with, it's your choice on what you do. I learned that because of my mom and the Shalom Zone."

"We are trying to cultivate and grow leaders," said Davis. "William is an exemplary leader."

"I want to do social work," said Baxter of his ultimate career goals. "I want to help the kids out, do what the Shalom Zone does."

Baxter graduated Gallatin High School with a 3.5 GPA, and was presented with a Shalom Zone scholarship. He is now attending Vol State full-time, and said he is going to go to either MTSU or TSU after Vol State.

"When he won the Shalom Zone scholarship at Gallatin High School, the entire gym stood up and applauded," said Davis. "He's the student that we have been involved with the longest. Giving is a two way street, and as you can see, he has no attitude."

"I didn't know I was getting it," said Baxter. "I thought I was only getting the Hope Scholarship. I was smiling and cheesing the whole time."

Education is something he thinks about quite a bit. Baxter says he finished reading a book called "The Gifted Hand" and found an educational message there, as well.

"It is about this guy who has an older brother, and his mom is a stay at home mom and he doesn't know who his dad is," said Baxter. "He ended up getting a PhD and becoming a surgeon. I felt connected to the book."

"Without an education nowadays, you can't really find a job," said Baxter. "In some cases, you can't even be a janitor. Right now I set small time goals, and so far it seems to be going good."

"My football coach told me that hard work always pays off," said Baxter. He said he realizes this daily. Living with hunger, and having to walk home for three miles after football practice in high school has not stopped Baxter from trying to make a difference for himself, his family and his community.

And with some help from friends he may not have to be walking any longer.

A staff member from the Shalom Zone, Joyce Kacar, has been transporting Baxter to and from Vol State this semester. He now has a car of his own due to the generous donation of a 1992 Geo Metro. The donation is from a Shalom Zone board member who Davis says would like to remain anonymous.

"I was kind of nervous but excited at the same time because I haven't driven in a while," Baxter said about first getting behind the wheel of the car.

Baxter said he has not had anyone ever give him anything like this before. "It made me feel like I have a guardian angel looking after me."

A service provided by the Office of Public Relations.