BATAVIA — A state Supreme Court justice had a few questions for Batavia City School District students.
Student members of My Brother’s Keeper and Justice E. Loren Williams, who grew up in Batavia and is a Batavia High School graduate, met Wednesday afternoon in a virtual setting and got to know a little more about one another.
Among the things Williams asked the students was what they wanted to be when they grew up. Markel Hill Jr., an eighth-grader who played for the Batavia Bulldogs, said he would like to play for the Bills.
“That’s a great ambition,” Williams asked. “What position did you play?”
Hill told him the season was over, but that he was an offensive and defensive lineman.
“I played the exact same positions when I was at Batavia, so that’s definitely a great ambition,” Williams said.
Sophomore Javion Krupinski said he wanted to be a pediatrician. He told Williams that’s what he wanted to be because he is good with kids.
“That’s good. That’s a good avenue for you to go,” the justice said. “I would love to sit here and tell you that I’d be on the Supreme Court or even an attorney, for that matter, when I was in grade school, when I was your age. I really didn’t know. The fact that you two already have an idea of what you want to be when you grow up, I think, is great.”
Williams was part of Batavia’s only state title-winning team in 1991. He went on to the state University at Albany and played defensive end for the Great Danes. While he was at Albany, his mother passed away after being struck by a car while trying to cross the street. While at Albany Law School, he was a single parent with a full-time job.
It wasn’t a “straight shot” to where he is today, Williams said in a video session with students. “It was definitely a struggle. It was a journey, one that I think was necessary for me to become who I am and where I am today,” he said. “One of the things I would say to you guys is, be willing to challenge yourself. I know all of you, probably, or some of you … have some aspirations about something you want to be when you grow up — even if you think it’s a long shot.”
Williams, speaking from Albany, said he would tell them a quick story. He said he grew up in the housing projects near Lions Park.
“When I was young, I didn’t have a car, so I had to walk. When I decided to play football in 10th grade, I had to walk the 2 1/2 miles to Van Detta Stadium, go through double sessions — which, anyone who doesn’t play football, it’s two practices in a day. We’d get there at 7 in the morning. We’d leave at like 3 or 4 in the afternoon. My friends and I would walk home.”
After three days, Williams said, his friend came to him and said he was going to quit.
“I said, ‘Well, why? We both talked about how much we wanted to play football for Batavia High.’ He said, ‘Look, we get up in the morning. We walk 2 1/2 miles to practice. We practice all day, then we walk home,’” Williams said. “I can’t say that his logic didn’t make sense, but that’s something I wanted to do. I wanted to pay football, so I had to put up with that struggle, that challenge, of covering the distance to get to practice, practice and then come home, even though no one else on the team had to deal with that.
“I say that to you and I tell you that story to let you know that your life may not go like other people’s — may not look the same. It may look a little different,” Williams said. “It may seem that it’s harder for you … than other people. That’s OK, because it’s OK to struggle and challenge yourself.”
Williams asked students about some of the challenges they face daily. After some chatter among each other, one students said school is a challenge.
“What is it about school that you find challenging?” he asked. The first response he heard was, “history class.”
“It’s a lot of things to comprehend,” the student replied.
Williams agreed there was a lot to remember, but said history was one of his favorite subjects.
“I liked it because I liked to listen to stories,” he said. “The challenge for you may be … just how you look at it. If you like listening to stories, history’s full of it. Remembering the stories certainly is easier if you enjoy it, right?”
A lot of life has to do with a person’s perception of it, he said.
“You may not like history class, but love math, perhaps. Other people may find math very challenging,” he said. “It’s important that you don’t run away from challenges — that you embrace them, you accept them, because they make you better.”