College isn’t for everyone and Robert Williams has experienced that first hand.
Upon graduating high school in 2015 from People’s Prep Charter School, Williams, a resident of 72 Hayes St. in Newark, enrolled at William Paterson University in the fall. But he felt bored. He wanted to see more of the world.
“Why not? It’s a new experience,” Williams, now 20, said from Pensacola, Fla., where he was stationed at the time of the interview. Taking matters into his own hands, Williams said that he originally wanted to join the Marine Corps but was unable to enlist because of a policy that didn’t allow any visible tattoos. So he turned his focus on joining the Navy.
Within two days of speaking to a Navy recruiter on the phone, Williams started his paperwork.
In a matter of months, his bags were packed and he headed off to boot camp at Great Lakes, Ill.
At boot camp, Williams underwent intensive physical training, such as being woken up for 3 a.m. training sessions and working under time pressure with his entire division. “It’s all about working together and communicating,” said Williams, a Newark native and the eldest of three boys.
Williams said the physical aspect wasn’t as tough as he thought it would be—the real challenge was the mental endurance required. “Can you work under pressure, can you work while sleep deprived,” Williams said. “My answer is don’t give up. Keep pushing,” he said.
The experiences have been exhilarating for Williams, but not without difficulty.
“It’s been challenging,” he said, acknowledging that he has encountered a few difficult instances, such as incidents of racism. “I just walked away from some situations,” he said.
Williams said that when he told his family that he would be leaving college to join the Navy, their reaction at first was “mixed emotions…especially for my mom.” On September 16, Williams flew from Florida to Texas where he will be stationed for the next four to five months, until he is assigned his permanent duty station.
“I feel excited,” he said. “It’s a chance that most people don’t get.”