Richland One’s Victory Program Helps Former Student Go After Her Entrepreneurial Dreams
After graduating from C.A. Johnson High School in 2021, Atia Williams joined Richland One’s Victory Program at Heyward Career and Technology Center. The program teaches work-based learning and independent living skills to special needs students ages 18-21.
“I thought this program would be a good opportunity for my future,” said Atia, who hopes to open her own T-shirt business one day. “My job coach and my teachers helped me get better every day.”
Job coach Kimberly Brunson says Atia was ambitious and determined to achieve her goals. During her time in the program, Atia created T-shirts for Brunson to wear.
“Atia was a go-getter,” said Brunson. “She always wanted to do more than what she was supposed to do.”
Atia already had experience in the workforce when she entered the Victory Program. She had worked at several area restaurants. Brunson said Atia’s work experience helped when the program’s Victory Café launched last school year. Students sell coffee and deliver them to classrooms.
“I didn’t have to instruct Atia about certain things with the café. She learned on the spot and took a lead role in the café,” said Brunson.”
Earlier this school year, The Victory Café became part of the Heyward Store, which sells slushies and snacks to students and teachers. Brunson says this move allows special needs students to serve teachers and their peers.
“The special needs students can be among students without special needs,” she said. “They can build relationships and learn the skills they need.”
After a year and a half, Atia exited the Victory Program. Thanks to her time there, she is now studying entrepreneurship at Midlands Technical College.
Before Atia left the program, Brunson met with her about seeing if working for Richland One would be something she’d be interested in. She said Atia was nervous about it at first.
“She was scared because she was stepping out into something different,” said Brunson. “Atia was leaving her comfort zone and going out into something different. But I think Atia is doing well.”
Atia is currently working in food services at Hyatt Park Elementary School. She started in December 2022.
“I really enjoy it so far and love working with the students,” said Atia.
Brunson says Atia was the first student to leave the Victory Program in the middle of the school year and get a full-time job in Richland One while going to college.
“Atia is a star student,” she said. “She makes our heart warm and we’re excited for her future.”