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STC Graduate Finds Success in Business, Ministry, Gospel

by Clarke Schwabe

August 22 -- It’s fair to say that Carmela Williams has enjoyed a good measure of success since her days on the STC-Vidalia campus.

{mosimage}After all, not everyone gets a personal invitation from Dr. Bobby Jones to sing in Nashville on one of his TV shows. Even fewer do this while holding down an office job and operating a ministry. Fewer still get a second invite from Jones.

But, succeeding under pressure and with several irons in the fire is nothing new for Williams.

In 1998, after Williams had her fourth child, she decided it was time to get back into school, and she jumped directly into the deep end.

“I took an overload of classes and worked through the summer,” said Williams. “I had class during the day and worked at the library at night.”

Williams, living in Lyons at that time, had no transportation and would ride with a friend who drove in from Baxley for classes. But despite this and the work load she’d taken on, Williams thrived.

She was a member of Collegiate Secretaries International and the National Vocational Technical Honor Society, and she became the president of the Student Senate. In 1999, she was named Southeastern Tech’s Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership recipient, an annual award given to the technical college’s best student.

“Carmela had what a lot of students do not have when they first walk in our doors: confidence,” said Gina Robison, STC’s dean of Business Technologies and Human Services, who was an instructor during Williams’s time at the college. “She was very confident and self-assured, and had exceptional public speaking abilities.  She was a joy to teach.”

“The support network [at STC] was crucial because of the life I had,” said Williams. “My instructors, Mary Alice Wilder and Gina Robison: very personal, very open and willing to help in whatever way they could. Helen Thomas was the one who helped me find additional resources so I could work. There’s no way I could’ve done what I’ve done without them.”

And Williams has done quite a bit. After being involved in a variety of community events for years, Williams and her husband Troy, married in 2003, decided to host one such event themselves. Becoming One Outreach Ministries (BOOM) began in 2010 with a bible study at the Vidalia Recreation Department, and in January 2011, they started Sunday services. Public response was strong from the start.

“The night before our first service we had absolutely nothing in the church, but by Sunday morning, we had everything we needed to have our first service,” said Williams. “Within six months of opening our doors, we had a fully furnished church that started at 900 square feet and grew to over 2500, so naturally, our phrase of praise is ‘BOOM! God moved just like that.’”

Professionally, Carmela stayed in education circles, working with Brewton-Parker College and Vidalia’s school system. This work eventually led her to the HR manager position at TWI Counseling, a family support service center with offices across Georgia. 

TWI Counseling’s CEO is Tony Wardlaw, eldest of the brothers who comprise the gospel group The Wardlaw Brothers. With this connection, Williams ended up back at Southeastern Tech for The Wardlaw Brothers’ album release party, where she got to sing with the host, Dr. Bobby Jones.

“It was crazy,” said Williams. “It was exciting. You grow up watching his show, so you kind of know how he flows. I mean, you look up to someone and you watch their show forever and you never really think you’ll get an opportunity to meet them. It really was crazy.”

Jones was impressed enough that he invited Williams to Nashville to be on “Bobby Jones Presents,” his show on the Impact Television Network featuring rising gospel singers. Her performance in July earned a return invitation for November, where she could be asked to go to Black Entertainment Television’s studios in Washington, D.C., for Jones’s other program, “Bobby Jones Gospel.”

But whether Williams makes it to Washington or not, from where she’s sitting—behind a manager’s desk, across the hall from the Wardlaw’s recording studio, and just down the road from her family and church—things look good regardless.