If you've ever heard Dr. Tonjua Williams speak, you know that she credits much of her success to the "village" she grew up with, in her St. Petersburg hometown. Alongside her mother, Willie Harris, Williams was surrounded by family, teachers, neighbors and mentors who pushed her to accomplish far more than she thought she could on her own. Now, 30 years into a career at St. Petersburg College, Williams worked her way up to the role of President, and seeks to be a part of that village for others. She works tirelessly to blaze a trail, connecting workforce with K-12, technical and baccalaureate institutions, to make St. Petersburg a better place to live and work for all.
Years in St. Pete
All of my life, 56 years.
Organizations involved in
The Board of Florida Holocaust Museum, Lynx Incorporated, Florida Community Colleges Student Success Commission, Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco Counties. I’ve got a lot, I can’t think of all of them!
What gets you out of bed every day?
Knowing that my mission on this earth is to help others succeed. I get up every morning to figure out what I can do to make life better for someone else, because someone did that for me.
Why St. Pete?
Born and raised here, I love this city. I love the growth of the city but also the potential for even more growth and more opportunities for our citizens to not only thrive but have really good lives throughout the entire city.
What is one habit that you keep?
I try to re-juice myself every day, so I try to read positive quotes. I’m a Facebooker so I send out a lot of good vibes to help people move forward, but it also helps me, as well. As a leader, you have to keep yourself energized, refreshed and moving forward, so listening to positive podcasts or anything like that is important for me.
Who are some people that influence you?
My faith in God is a major influence in my life. My family, my loving husband of almost 30 years, Derrick Williams. But also, there were a lot of people along the way, educators and people who worked with me at my job that helped influence and shape the person that I am today.
What is one piece of insight - a book, methodology, practice - that you would share with our readers?
Make sure that you take care of yourself.
What is one thing you wish you knew about your work 3 years ago?
What I wish I would have paid more attention to is the speed of automation and technology, and how important it is for education to stay ahead of that. That means working closer with our workforce partners to know what they’re working on for the future.
For St. Petersburg College, what’s next is creating that educational ecosystem where we provide seamless education from VPK to 20. Partnering with K-12, partnering with the technical colleges, USF and Eckerd and our city to make sure that there’s not one piece of information that’s not accessible to everybody to change their lives.