40 Under 40 The Class of 2017

Sedale Williams

Doctoral Student, Springfield College; Project Coordinator, ParaDYM Inc.; Age 30

Sedale Williams

Sedale Williams

When he was young, Sedale Williams never dreamed he would be able to attend college. But today, he is finishing his doctorate and has dedicated his life to helping young and underprivileged individuals realize their potential.

“An adolescent’s confidence is fragile, and they need to know they are capable, can set goals, and can realize their dreams,” said Williams, who grew up in several neighborhoods in Springfield and didn’t get the encouragement he needed in school, but set his sights on a doctorate in psychology after taking a course in the subject at Central High School.

Several months ago, Williams left his job as a clinician at BHN Carson Center for Human Services in Westfield to finish the doctoral program at Springfield College. He will return to Carson in August and is currently project coordinator for ParaDYM Inc. in New Britain, Conn., which serves at-risk youth.

Williams worked with the homeless in San Diego from 2010 to 2012 and saw a high incidence of underlying mental-health issues, which he said are often repressed in the African-American community. He served in AmeriCorps to support the Springfield College School Turnaround Initiative, was a peer advisor at Westfield State University, and has volunteered and worked on special projects at UConn, University of Hartford, United Way of Pioneer Valley, Hampden County Sheriff’s Department, Carl Robinson Correctional Institute, Springfield Academy for Excellence, and Veritas Prep Academy.

He is on the board and steering committee for Brothers United to Inspire Lifestyle Development, helps facilitate the annual Constructing Kings Male Youth Summit, and collaborates with Springfield youths and the community to lower the dropout rate. “I like working with middle-school students because that’s when you see a dropoff in interest in schooling,” he said.

In 2015, Williams was a speaker at the United Way of Pioneer Valley’s 93rd annual celebration and feted with its Youth Generate Presidential Service Award, presented at the 15th annual Boston College Diversity Challenge, was awarded the Key Program’s Deborah Feldstein-Bartfield Memorial Scholarship, and will speak at the 125th national conference of the American Psychological Assoc. in August.

Williams’ family has always supported him, and Springfield College advisor Peiwei Li has helped him stay motivated.

“I take on a lot that’s challenging,” he said, “but I want to pay it all forward.”

—Kathleen Mitchell