NEW BEDFORD — Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School senior Tyrese Moniz has a passion for music, but as he prepared to take the stage at the 2022 Mr. Voc-Tech competition last month to interpret part of it, he was nervous.

Thankfully, a warm and familiar presence arrived backstage for the boys just in time to turn Moniz’s butterflies into sparks. “He told us, when you step onto that stage and look at that crowd, know that everyone in those seats has come to see you. This stage is your home,” Moniz said, speaking of his school principal. , Warley Williams. “He definitely made me more comfortable and more reassured that I was going to do amazing.”

Moniz says his story is one of many of Williams showing support for his students when they needed it most throughout the current school year – the first in his position at GNB Voc-Tech .

A mandate of more than 20 years in the making

But before returning to high school as principal, Williams had served as assistant principal, head of security, and coach; before that, student athlete and graduate; and, prior to any reinstatement at GNB Voc-Tech, Williams was a student at Keith Junior High attending a summer exploratory camp offered there.

“As a 12-year-old kid between grades seven and eight coming into this school, I was totally mesmerized by everything I saw,” Williams said. “I will always remember the projects we did – I brought home a bird feeder from the carpentry, and in electrical we made these optical illusion boxes. … I just knew I had to come here .”

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Admitting he wasn’t exactly studious in seventh grade, Williams said his summer experience that year was the motivation he needed to step up his academic efforts in eighth grade as he strives to increase their chances of admission to GNB Voc-Tech. . Once there, he became a member of the high school’s property management shop, since disbanded, before graduating in 2002 and starting at UMass Dartmouth as a computer specialist. However, life had other plans when Caroline, Williams’ wife of 20 years, became pregnant with their first child during her first semester. Suddenly, her in-store experience came in handy.

“So it was obvious to me that I needed to find a paid job to start my family and that’s when I dropped out of college and started working in a lumber yard,” said Williams.

After the birth of their second child, Williams was in the same line of business and doing other odd jobs in construction and landscaping when he hit an achievement that prompted him to return to college. in 2007: “Cold winters and hot summers on a forklift – that just wasn’t for me,” he said. So in 2009, when he was fired due to a economic downturn, Williams was on the right track as a history student, which gave her a new direction in her job search this time around.

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“I wanted to give back to the community…so when I got laid off, I went downtown to the school department building (New Bedford) and applied to be a substitute teacher. Then when I got the call from the dispatch saying I could teach at Keith Middle School, I was so excited,” Williams said. “I remember that day because the kids felt like ‘who is this guy?’ but I was… able to captivate them with conversation – just talking about different things that they were going through on the streets with gangs and things like that.

“I was hooked. I could tell it was going to be hard work, but I was hooked.”

Eventually, Williams began filling in at Whaling City Junior/Senior High – New Bedford’s alternative high school – before becoming principal there three years later. After another three years, Williams took the opportunity in 2014 to apply for a position as director of GNB Voc-Tech, which resulted in him being chosen as assistant director instead – a role that turned in several others such as National Honor Society Co-Advisor, Track Coach and Director of Safety.

“It took me a long time to stop pinching myself to see if it was real,” he said of his first return to his alma mater.

Warley Williams is completing his first year as principal of his alma mater, Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School.

But, with his desire to lead a school as a principal already honed, Williams would find himself at Keith Middle School once a chance to be principal there presented itself. “I really didn’t want to leave, but I was itching to run a school,” he said of the career move in 2019. From there, just in time for the current school year, Williams applied. for a superintendent opening at GNB Voc-Tech, lands him his starring role.

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“Like no other director I’ve had”

When reflecting on his first year as principal, Williams considers the quality of his relationships with his students one of the main indicators of success.

“I am very grateful for the way I have been received by the students. I get emails from them, I get stopped in the hallways, they ask me for start-up committees, they ask for certain activities, and what I’m so happy is that they see me as a source of support,” he said. “I can’t say I expected this so soon.”

“This man really cares about his students like no other principal I’ve had,” said senior graduate Erica Lugo, 18. In March, Lugo approached Williams with his idea of ​​starting a Miss Voc-Tech pageant for senior girls in addition to the long-running, boys-only Mr. Voc-Tech pageant, which resulted in the first reincarnation of the event in 20 years. “He gave not only me, but a good number of students, a second chance to improve because he sees nothing but potential in all of us.”

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“It’s cool to see how he’s always been a part of our years, especially our senior year — he wants to be part of our last memories in the building as much as he can,” Moniz said, “like at prom. Mardi Gras when we got him to dance with us – we put him in the middle of the circle and we all went crazy.”

Williams also feels fortunate to be able, as a school leader, to represent progress in the wider community.

“When you walk into Voc-Tech, you see there’s a wall with portraits of all the past directors… I really don’t want to talk about race but I recognize that I’m a black man, and I look it’s wall to see great people there … but none of them are like me, ”he said, also mentioning being the first black principal of Keith Middle School, as well as the fact that public schools of New Bedford have a black superintendent.” So I’m just proud of the fact that I’m a person of color that our kids can look up to. Seeing someone who looks like me in a leadership role, I think, has a lot of impact, not just for kids who look like me, but for all kids.”

Closing a special year

As the year draws to a close, it’s now Williams’ favorite part of the school year for all the excitement that comes with it. It’s also an emotional time, especially this year in particular. “The seniors graduating were freshmen when I was assistant principal, so I’m especially grateful to be able to see them graduate. It means so much to me and they know it – I tell them everything time,” he said.

Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School principal Warley Williams (back row, center) poses for a group photo with entrants to the 2022 Mr. Voc-Tech contest on April 8.

Not to mention that Williams’ eldest son, Dante, 18, is also part of the promotion. “To be able to say that in my first year as principal I will be able to graduate my son is just amazing to me. I feel so lucky and so proud,” Williams said, noting his daughter Kianna, 16 years old. , will be a junior at school next year, while her youngest daughter Trynaty, 14, will start at New Bedford High School.

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Discussing the keys to success at GNB Voc-Tech, Williams reflects on why late spring is her favorite part of the school calendar, citing occasions like the junior banquet, prom and senior picnic.

“I could talk about academics, MCAS, what we’re doing to impact education in our technology programs, but to me, those things thrive when our building culture and climate are at their best,” did he declare. “I always hope the kids leave here with experiences they’re happy to talk about, experiences they’re proud of. That’s what you take home with you.”

For Moniz, his performance night outside the school seems to fit that bill.

“It will definitely be one of my fondest memories from high school,” he said. “If I ever have another gig, I will always remember the words Mr. Williams said to me.”