A blog to showcase our students stories and experiences!

Coming Full Circle: From Program Participant, to Employee and Beyond, Aonesti Williams Reflects on the impact LTWLA has had on her Life and Career

Tell us about your relationship with Lead The Way? How did you get involved?

Lead the Way came to Reynoldsburg at some point when I was in either middle or high school and asked to be connected with students who come from underserved backgrounds. There was a program put in place and they asked if she wanted to be a part of the program. They had summer employment opportunities, offered help with the ACT and college tours and extra help figuring out next steps in life. I went to a meeting and I liked it and I enjoyed having the mentors come to the school twice a week and talking with us. They asked what our future plans were, how we were going to get there, if we needed Lead The Way’s help and if we could use some of their resources. I was involved in the after-school program and summer job I worked every summer for them while I was in high school.

Now that you’re on the other side, what’s it like working for Lead The Way (LTW) after going through the program?

At one time, I was a youth, and at another time I was an employee helping other youth do what I did. I think it was a rewarding experience being able to help people who were in my situation at one point in time–not having those resources or that support system— and being a part of the mission. It allowed me to be in the position to talk to youth outside of just LTW and being able to connect with the youth and help them personally. It was nice to pour back into other people what has been poured into me. Ms. Jackie (Executive Director) was like an angel that I never expected to be there, she helped me through a lot. I wouldn’t have gone to the college I went to, she took me for a college tour the week before I went there and had me talk to the officer of Diversity affairs which solidified me going there.  I think it’s so important to pour into others.

Ms. Jackie was like an angel that I never expected to be there… I wouldn’t have gone to the college I went to, she took me for a college tour the week before I went there and had me talk to the officer of Diversity affairs which solidified me going there.”

Aonesti Williams, Former LTWLA Participant and Employee
Aonesti at her graduation from Reynoldsburg High School as Valedictorian with honors.

How has LTW influenced your career path and trajectory?

One of my internships was in a rehab hospital as an intern which allowed me to see a different side of medicine and get more clinical skills and see another side of medicine. I came into the program wanting to be a doctor but they helped me get there in terms of getting the opportunities and professional development that helped with solidifying that path for me and opening up medicine.

You’re in medical school, how is that going with COVID-19 and everything?

I’m grateful to be where I am, I’ve worked a long and hard time to be here and experience this but medical school is hard. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.  It’s more fast-paced than expected. Now that I’m here it’s like “wow.” I really have to do this, it’s the real deal. I’m really trying to get used to being in school again. Especially with these COVID-19 times it’s interesting, because I never thought I’d be beginning my journey in medicine during these times. It’s a time of change and adaptation so I get to be a part of seeing medical schools adapt their curriculum to virtual learning. It’s interesting, because it’s all about improvements now, even thinking ahead to once this ends, things are definitely changing and progressing. Because  I’m in my first year I’m in my book year, I’m not missing out on a ton of clinical experience but it is the virtual learning that’s being affected.

Beyond COVID, in terms of the systemic racism and things going on it gets hard. At one end I’m an educated black women so this affects me but I still have be professional in mostly white environments where I’m surrounded by white people and I have to code-switch at times and getting used to the world that I’m going to it, medicine is not historically a place for minorities but I’m excited for the changes happening as more men and women of color enter into the medical field and being a part of the movement. I experience microaggressions in real life to but if you react, you’re perceived as “angry” but if you don’t, you seem as though you’re complacent so it’s about finding a happy medium.

What has the transition been like as you move into medical school?

There’s definitely a lot of very educated people but I’ve been starting to experience doctors and students thinking they are better due to their education and being in medical school and coming from privileged families. In terms of staying motivated, it’s important that I stay engaged in my community whether thats parents, connections, family connections. There’s a feeling that we have to prove that we’re supposed to here once we get here. Seeing that this is the future of medicine and some of the ignorance or arrogance towards working with people of less income that they have to explain more things to them or they have to talk differently is pretty jarring.

How do you stay grounded, motivated and encouraged?

I take it back to why do I want to be here and why have I worked here so far and a lot of it is how I grew up and not wanting my kids to go through the same things and making sure I can be a support to my family. A lot of it is seeing how my mom struggled with me and my brother. I wasn’t really pushed to be a good student. I’ve been going against the grain this whole time just to figure out what we are really supposed to do so that definitely motivates me. I think just being able to help other people Being in an underserved community, you go ah. In order to break generational cycles it’s important to continue breaking barriers. Gaining educations opens doors. We need more people motivating us to get there even if I help just two or three people get where they need to be. I want to help us as a community, it’s bigger than me and my family. You have to overlook the tragedies to get through day to day life or advocate for change and it’s tiresome and emotional.

I think we definitely need more people like you in medicine! What an inspiration to others. What would younger Aonesti think if she could see you now?

If younger Aonesti could see where I am now, I would be proud and excited and happy that I was able to get to this point regardless of what happened in my past. Just knowing that I could get here would really be a lot, I would be happy and see myself living out my dream and what I’m passionate about and knowing that all of the hard work and all of the trials and tribulations meant something and got me to this place. I didn’t exactly see me here, I just knew what I had to do to get there so I think it would motivate me even more to live my purpose.  

Day in the Life of an Intern: Josh Bean, Dogtopia

10:00 am Go through the binder of things to clean and get the day started.
11:00 am Help make lunches for dogs, feed them and retrieve their bowls once they’re done. During this time, it’s important to monitor them and make sure they have everything they need.
12:30 pm Lunchtime. Time to kick back, relax, and have a quick snack while the pups nap.
1:00pm The next shift of workers arrive and open up the rooms for the dogs. They’re pretty energetic after their nap!
2:00 pm During this time, there might be meet-ins, where people bring in dogs for the first time, let dog gets used to other dogs. Dogs are being boarded in while others might be getting ready to go home and everything has to be tracked accurately by signing the dogs in and out.
3:00pm After a long day of playing with, feeding, and supervising pups, it’s time to clean up and head home for the day!

Q&A with Joshua

How has COVID changed your work? I used to work in construction and am used to different type of work. But I’ve really liked my time here at Dogtopia and feel like I’ve learned a lot.  
What’s something you’ve learned over this summer? Getting a certification I had to go through training. I learned about breeds of dogs, I learned about signs for dogs and their behavior, when a dog is sad, and understanding their feelings and emotions.
Favorite Dog? Gucci. She’s is a Pomeranian poodle mix.  She’s highly intelligent it’s like she knows exactly what I’m saying. She does everything off of first command.
What’s a highlight of your day? After the dogs take a nap and we let them out and the next shift of coworkers come. A lot of them are older than me and I’m probably the youngest one here, but I get along with them and like spending time with them.