As a high-school student in Chicago, Dazesha Williams says there was a moment that helped cement the path she wanted to take.

“I was doing volunteer service at an elementary school. I saw a student who needed a push in order to thrive, and I talked to her,” she says. “Her teacher told me she started to improve academically and socially over the next few weeks.”

Williams – who is graduating from Missouri Southern this spring with a degree in elementary education – will realize her dream this fall when she steps to the head of the class as a first-grade teacher at Joplin’s McKinley Elementary School.

Her journey at MSSU wasn’t always easy, she says, but she continued to push forward toward her goal no matter what. There were certain classes she says she struggled with, which affected her GPA.

“There were times I had to repeat courses, which I would take again the following semester,” she says. “I wanted to do my best.”

It wasn’t easy, but Williams says she found ways to adapt and persevere when it came to her studies. She also looked for other ways to better herself.

“One thing I definitely learned was how to accept constructive criticism,” she says. “I also found ways to build structure and improve myself through meditation, getting more into my Bible and interacting with others like me who needed a push.”

Dr. Jeri Goswick, assistant professor of teacher education, says she admires the way Williams “owned her educational experience.”

“Dazesha took responsibility for her grades and never complained if she didn’t do as well as she wanted or didn’t understand the expectations of an assignment or course activity,” says Goswick. “Often, we as humans like to place blame, but not Dazesha. She owns her journey.

“She’s a wonderful role model for future educators and her future students. I am so excited to see what she brings to her classroom.”

The most important lesson Williams says she learned during her time at MSSU was the importance of continuing to push forward, no matter what obstacles are in your path.

“No matter how long it might take, stay true to yourself and what you’re passionate about,” she says.