An NIU political science student’s years of work for those who serve in the military has led to national recognition, which recently put her on stage in Washington D.C. with Olympian Gold Medalist Michael Phelps.
Glennita Williams, of South Holland, Ill., was invited to Washington D.C. by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, which is the nation’s largest youth recognition program based exclusively on volunteer community service. The program honors middle and high school students for outstanding service, and has recognized more than 120,000 young people since it was created in 1995.
Williams was an award recipient in 2011, and this year was invited to the program’s annual recognition events as a guest speaker, where she shared a stage with Phelps during a gala and awards dinner at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. She also spoke on a panel about her experiences in nonprofits and as a college student at NIU.
The recognition is due in part to a nonprofit she founded at age 11, America’s Guardian Angels. Williams is founder and president of the nonprofit foundation committed to the men and women serving this country. She started the organization in May 2008, when her friend’s father was deployed to Iraq. She emailed him to see what he needed, and he told her he was craving Twinkies. Williams decided to ask her fifth grade teacher and classmates to help her collect Twinkies.
In just 10 days Williams collected and shipped more than 1,000 Twinkies to Iraq. From there, the project grew each year. To date, thousands of soldiers have benefitted from her efforts and hundreds of veterans have received care packets.
Williams is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in political science from NIU, and expects to graduate in May 2019. During her freshman year, she was a Student Association Senator, an experience she said taught her more about politics and how government functions. Williams credits her political science classes with encouraging her focus on service.
“Political science is a way of service and giving back to the community by serving in government,” she said. “Choices that are made in politics have a direct effect on people.”
Williams hopes to continue the work she began in fifth grade: She aspires to be a U.S. Senator and to work on the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. For now, she is working on her degree and preparing for a humanitarian trip to Tijuana, Mexico, where she will volunteer at an orphanage. She is also developing projects, through her nonprofit, that she hopes to bring to NIU to raise awareness about those who serve in the military.
“I’ve always wanted to be a politician because I feel that being a politician is a way of helping people, especially our troops and veterans,” she said.