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Lehigh Carbon Community College

LCCC Alumnus Encourages Students to ‘Maximize the Time They Have’

By Sara Hodon

Brandon Williams has some hard-learned words of wisdom for Lehigh Carbon Community College students.

“Failure doesn’t have to be the final chapter,” he says candidly. “You can define failure different ways. If you fail a quiz, that’s not the end of the world. If you have one little failure, you can let it snowball or you can move forward.”

Williams hasn’t always had such a positive outlook on life, but he says that changing his perspective has helped him accomplish more than he ever imagined, and he encourages others to do the same.

A graduate of Lehighton Area High School, Williams overcame a difficult period of addiction that was fueled by bouts of depression. He went on to not only earn a psychology degree from LCCC in 2012, but receive a bachelor’s degree from Bucknell University and a master’s degree in addiction studies from the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. Williams recently shared a little more about himself, his experience at LCCC and where his path has led.

Question: You majored in psychology at LCCC. What interested you about that program?

Williams: I was looking for sports management but went for psych to see how humans tick. It helped me learn more about myself — what I do and why I do it. I’m a people person — I love interacting with people and learning why we do the things we do. The psych department at LCCC was phenomenal, especially Professor (Gary) Andrews and Professor (Betsy) Swope. I just ran with it.

Q: You also participated in the Bucknell Scholars program.  How did you hear about it and what made you decide to apply?

Williams: It’s kind of amazing how that worked out. I got this email talking about the program — you had to submit an essay and do a few other things. I wasn’t writing an essay. Professor Swope pulled me aside after class and talked to me more about the program in depth. She said I should check it out. LCCC offers a bus trip to check out the campus, so I said OK, I’d take the tour. I didn’t realize what a great school it was. It was an opportunity I really wanted, so I went for it. I took two classes at Bucknell over six weeks, then I came back to LCCC to finish my associate degree. I had to interview at Bucknell, and it turned out I got a full scholarship to Bucknell for my junior and senior years — I graduated in 2015. Had it not been for Professor Swope, I would’ve let that email go and not tried for that program. Another person who really helped me was transfer advisor Ginny Mihalik. She was very involved with the program.

QWhat are some of the most valuable lessons you learned at LCCC?

Williams: That the opportunities are endless. You really never know what opportunities are out there until you go there. And ask for help, because it’s there. The professors are there to help you.

Q: Tell us about your current job.

Williams: I’m a counselor for the Carbon-Monroe-Pike Drug and Alcohol Commission. I’ve worked there since December 2016. I work at the Carbon County correctional facility three days a week and am in the Lehighton office two days a week. I’m an outpatient counselor at the jail and work primarily with the male inmates. I run two groups. At the office, I work with inmates transitioning out of jail, so they continue to work with me. On Friday, I run a group at the office in Lehighton and do individual outpatient counseling.

Q: You were part of a Drug, Alcohol, and Opioid Symposium recently held at Lehighton High School. How did that come about?

Williams: I’d spoken at the school by myself a few years ago, so they already had that connection with me. The school contacted our office and wanted to do a whole day. Pennsylvania’s attorney general wanted to join, so they adapted the program into a panel discussion. The panel consisted of myself, the attorney general, (Carbon County) Judge (Joseph) Matika, and folks from Carbon-Monroe-Pike.
I talked about my story, but also some of the small things, like how addiction can become a bigger problem than you realize. I told the kids not to waste their potential. It’s sad to see chemical use hurt these people — it’s either killing them or affecting them for the rest of their lives. If you are in trouble, find people to confide in — that helps, too.

Q: That’s so important. What’s some of the best advice you’ve ever received?

Williams: Maximize the time you have and the abilities you have—you never know when it’s going to be gone. I don’t let opportunities pass me by — it really comes down to the effort. I always give my best — I didn’t do that before. I’m fortunate to be where I am. You also have to have a positive outlook, no matter the circumstances.

Q: What advice would you have for students at LCCC?

Williams: Utilize all the resources and opportunities that are provided at the college. Put in the best effort that you can — you’ll be amazed at what can arise from that. If you’re struggling, ask for help — don’t just go through the motions. Try to learn to the best of your ability.