Goodnight Spotlight: Martia & Breeyonna Williams

National Siblings Day 2021 would not be complete without a special Q&A with Martia Williams ’22 and Breeyonna Williams ’24, siblings and sisters within the Goodnight Scholars Program. Despite the differentiating academic paths of Martia and Breeyonna, one aspect of their lives remains constant: the joy it brings both sisters to not only attend NC State together, but also to be Goodnight Scholars together. Read more about this dynamic duo within the Goodnight Scholars Program in the latest Goodnight Scholars Spotlight.

Goodnight Scholars Program: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your favorite part of being a Goodnight Scholar alongside your sibling?

Martia Williams ’22: I am a third year Goodnight Scholar majoring in secondary mathematics education. I always like to describe myself first and foremost as a passionate educator who desires for all students, especially students of color, to feel comfortable and confident in STEM classrooms. My favorite part about being in the Goodnight Scholars program and at NC State with my sister is being able to go to Goodnight Scholars Program and campus events together. My sister is very shy and not always ready to meet new people and I enjoy being able to help her get out of her shell and talk her into going to some events that she would not otherwise do if I was not here to push her a bit.

Breeyonna Williams ’24: Currently, I’m a freshman intending to major in civil engineering. I enjoy being in the Goodnight Scholars Program and at NC State with Martia because I appreciate having her as a guide through these new experiences for me. I like that we can take part in events together and that she supports me in drawing the most out of college and the Goodnight Scholars Program.

How would you describe your life as an NC State student thus far?

Martia: Just like other NC State students, my time has been a roller-coaster, starting with a pretty tough freshman year. I had a difficult time balancing my school life and my social life. I had to learn a lot about myself and how to manage my time wisely. Moving forward to sophomore year, I feel that this was the year where I really started to feel like I had gotten the hang of the whole college thing. I found a good balance between academics and social life and I got to go on the Goodnight Scholars Trip to Boston! But just when I thought I had everything figured out, the pandemic shut down the campus. I had to deal with some disappointment with my Spring Break Trip to Prague being canceled, along with many other events. Despite this, I still managed to learn how to truly take things one day at a time and keep in touch with friends to help with isolation. Now in junior year, a big part of my experience is seeing the racial change that is happening in our country as a future Black educator. I have found it challenging to see the sad truth that some educators have not noticed the difficulties that minority students face every day in the classroom. Although this school year has been challenging in that regard, it has also reemphasized for me my role as a future Black math teacher. It has shown me just how meaningful and needed my work is for students and has made me even more passionate about helping students of color.

Breeyonna: So far, my life as an NC State student has been an experience of extreme growth. I have only been at NC State for less than a year and the entirety of that year has occurred during the pandemic. Despite this, I’ve enjoyed attending various events through both the Arts Village and the Goodnight Scholars Program. For the two weeks that I lived on campus, I enjoyed walking wherever I needed to and I enjoyed the exercise that the walking provided. Although I joined a couple of clubs last semester, I am still eager to increase my extracurricular participation in the future and attend in-person meetings. I also hope that I will soon be able to take part in the full experience of being a student living on campus.

Tell us about your time in the Goodnight Scholars Program.

Martia: My time in the Goodnight Scholars Program has been an exciting adventure. I remember as a freshman signing up for as many GSP events as possible, especially, of course, the ones with free food. But in all seriousness, I really tried to get to know other people and use GSP events as an escape from academics. Sophomore year was when I decided that I wanted to be more actively involved in the program outside of just completing GSPs. I had an amazing experience on the Goodnight Scholars Boston Trip, applied for an enrichment grant, and applied to some leadership positions. I enjoyed this year so much because I challenged myself and really took advantage of some of the things that the Goodnight Scholars Program has to offer. Finally, this year has been a fun experience in the program, and being a Goodnight Mentor has allowed me to grow a lot. The best part has been having the opportunity to go to GSP events with my sister. We participated in a paint night last semester that was among the most fun I have had this school year because of my sister. I have loved being able to experience the Goodnight Scholars Program with her and I know we have many more memories to make together in the future.

Breeyonna:  I have greatly enjoyed being a part of this community. One significant help that I’ve had this semester has come in the form of my Goodnight Scholars Program mentor. Through our various Zoom meetings, my mentor has been a friend by allowing me to talk through the different problems in my life and offering support and guidance when needed. In addition to my mentor, I have also been able to find support in the various events offered through this program. Whether the events were an informative session about mental health, a hilarious paint night, or a socially distanced craft session, I’ve enjoyed being able to connect with scholars from various classes and locations.

What does being a Goodnight Scholar mean to you?

Martia: This may seem a bit cliché but being a Goodnight Scholar is not just about getting the funding for college, it’s also about the community. I have met so many intelligent and like-minded people through this program who have made my time at NC State an enjoyable experience. I feel that sometimes people outside of the program view us as just really “smart” students, which is true, but sometimes it can be hard to live up to the expectations from the outside world of what it means to be a scholarship student. I also find myself needing to always prove my competence to others as a Black woman in a mostly white field of study. But, when I’m with other scholars I feel like I can truly be myself and not have to worry about proving myself to anyone because we all know that we worked hard to get where we are now.

Breeyonna: Being a Goodnight Scholar means being a member of a community of unique individuals with similar interests and backgrounds. In this community, I am surrounded by individuals who support me in my academic career because they relate to the path that I’ve decided to take. Most importantly, being a Goodnight Scholar means both having access to a plethora of academic opportunities and being relieved of most of the economic burden that such opportunities would provide. Without such an economic burden, being a Goodnight Scholar means that I’m allowed to draw the most out of my college experience.

What is one experience you need to have at NC State before you graduate?

Martia: The experience that I need to have at NC State before I graduate is to go to an NC State vs. UNC-CH basketball game – either men’s or women’s. I have grown up always watching these games on television or listening to them on the radio but I have never been to a game. Usually, the tickets are way too expensive so I want to take advantage of the fact that I don’t have to pay for the tickets as a student. I’m excited to get a chance to see one of these games in person before I graduate!

Breeyonna: Before I graduate, I would like to go on at least one study abroad trip during the summer. Before starting college, I haven’t taken the opportunity to travel to another country. I think that going on a study abroad trip would help expose me to the greater world around me and allow me to become a global citizen. Also, since I’m interested in architecture, a study abroad trip would provide me with the opportunity to examine the architecture of a different country.

What would be your biggest piece of advice to a potential Goodnight Scholar or incoming Goodnight Scholar?

Martia: This is a very difficult one because I have so many pieces of advice. However, the biggest advice would be to take advantage of everything that the Goodnight Scholars Program has to offer. Not just in terms of monetary offerings like the scholarship and opportunities for enrichment grant funding. But rather, take your time to get to know your fellow scholars and the pro staff because getting to know these people will help you so much throughout your time at NC State. I have met so many unique people who have pushed me out of my comfort zone and made me want to be a better version of myself.

Breeyonna: To any potential or incoming Goodnight Scholars, I would tell them to stop doubting themselves and to try to get the most out of the Goodnight Scholars Program events and experiences. I know from personal experience that it is easy to constantly doubt yourself and your abilities and to question whether or not you belong in this program. One of the most encouraging words I’ve heard on my journey with this program was from Dr. Stafford on my interview day. He told us that out of all the students who had applied to NC State and out of all the students that applied to this program, the small group of us were chosen and considered because we worked hard to be here. Instead of wasting time doubting your place in this program, make the most out of each opportunity provided. Use the pro staff as a guide, the community as a support, and take part in each event, trip, and leadership opportunity that you possibly can. You belong here.

Photography Credit: Josh Guter/Goodnight Scholars Program Communications Assistant