Aaliyah Williams loves to help others, especially kids.
It comes naturally for the Kansas City native.
“I was born a triplet, but technically I’m the oldest so I’ve always had a nurturing spirit and a desire to take care of my sisters,” she said. “I worked at multiple nonprofit organizations in Kansas City, which created a passion in working with children and families.”
At Missouri State, Williams found degree programs that matched her interests.
- She earned a bachelor’s degree in child and family development.
- At the same, she fast-tracked toward her master’s degree: early childhood and family development.
Williams took the accelerated option. She earned undergraduate and graduate credit at the same time.
Now, Williams works as a child development specialist for OACAC Head Start. She’s responsible for completing developmental assessments for children enrolled in the program to determine if they have developmental delays.
She also trains teachers to support disabilities and developmental delays in their classrooms and maintain fidelity to OACAC Head Start’s curriculum.
“My degree helped me understand the stages of human development and how a family and the environment influence healthy child development. Having increased knowledge about child development helped build my confidence in my ability to effectively work with children and families,” Williams said.
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While a student, Williams participated in study away. She spent a semester at the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland during her junior year.
She took four classes staggered over a five-month span. Away from class, she traveled Europe.
“They don’t really believe in homework (in Finland), per se, so I had a lot of free time,” Williams said. “I traveled to Sweden, Germany, London, Amsterdam, Italy … I loved it. It was so amazing.”
“Studying abroad gave me insight on the importance of multicultural education. It has influenced me to use multiculturalism in my classroom.”
Her classes at Jyvaskyla included CFD 250 (Parenting in Contemporary Society) and CFD 303 (Multicultural Studies in Child and Family Development).
Every class transferred back to Missouri State. This helped Williams stay on track to graduate.
“The freedom (with courses) of my undergraduate degree was my favorite part,” she said. “Everything transferred back (to MSU) and I was able to graduate in four years.”
Williams enjoyed her time so much that she’s thinking about going to Europe again.
This time, to earn her PhD and work abroad.
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Williams has had help along her journey.
Kauffman Scholars covered all expenses for her undergraduate degree – tuition, room and board, books and more.
Two on-campus advisors, Cindy Thieman and Ryan Reed, provided guidance and support.
“Cindy, she helped me with the child development side of my (undergraduate) degree,” Williams said. “Ryan (Reed) in Multicultural Services met my overall life questions and helped me with networking.”
For students considering a career in this field, Williams’ advice is to be willing to internally reflect on your experiences growing up, your education experiences and professional experiences to determine how they impact your views on child and family development.
“This helps to examine how you interact with children and families to acknowledge and reduce unconscious bias,” Williams said. “You’ll also become more empathetic for children and families that have diverse cultures, backgrounds and behaviors.”