Anthony Williamson, community development manager at Parkridge Community Center in Ypsilanti, is more of a behind-the-scenes guy.
So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that Williamson almost didn’t attend a ceremony where he would receive the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Prestigious Civil Rights Carter G. Woodson Award for his ongoing service and dedication to the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti community.
“I was honored to receive the award, and it feels great to be recognized by so many people that I respect and admire, but it’s not the reason why I do this,” Williamson said. “Social work can be challenging and to do this day in and day out, you have to genuinely care about the success of other people. At (Parkridge), we care about every single person who walks through our door.”
Since 1943, Parkridge has been a one-stop shop in the community for those who need some extra guidance in their path toward success. In 2012, WCC partnered with the city of Ypsilanti to expand services to include after school tutoring, youth mentoring, noncredit classes, and a summer camp for children ages five to 13 – making it a true community asset.
As someone who served as WCC’s Harriet Street Center’s program coordinator from 2001-2012, Williamson is no stranger to giving back to others in need. “I didn’t choose social work,” he said. “Social work chose me.”
It all started when he began working with disabled adults while working toward earning his bachelor’s degree at Eastern Michigan University. “Seeing the expression on their faces whenever they learned some of the most menial things that many of us take for granted, completely changed my outlook on life and what it was I wanted to do professionally,” he said.
Williamson says he’s often asked about what it’s like being a social worker at a community college versus a child welfare agency. His response?
“As a social worker, the goals are the same no matter where you go, and that includes helping people improve their lives,” he said. “It’s important that people understand that Parkridge and WCC share the same mission. We are one, and that’s the beauty of what we do.”
It’s hard to believe that Williamson is a 25-year employee of the college considering that he still has the same passion for helping others as he did on his first day – and it shows.
“Anthony is a pillar in the Ypsilanti community. He is a strong advocate for education and quality of life for children, adults and seniors,” said Monique James, chief of staff for WCC President Dr. Rose B. Bellanca and former head of Community Enrichment at WCC. “His vast knowledge and expertise in community development positions WCC at Parkridge as a key partner with other academic institutions and human service organizations throughout Washtenaw County.
“This recognition reflects the hard work and tireless efforts Anthony demonstrates daily to ensure Ypsilanti remains a viable community for all residents.”
The Parkridge Community Center is located at 591 Armstrong Drive in Ypsilanti. For more information, call 734-483-7700.
This story originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of On the Record.