“I volunteered a lot - through different community centers, working with youth, working with adults, working with disadvantaged communities. I kept those relationships going through my professional life.”In many ways, Tyrone Cratic Williams ’12 personifies the power of a liberal arts education. He arrived at Edgewood College as part of the first cohort of the Community Scholars program, an initiative that supports Dane County students who have high financial need and a commitment to community service. Williams began his journey as an Accounting major, then changed to Graphic Design. When he completed his degree in 2012, he graduated with a B.A. in Art, with a minor in Ethnic Studies. Today, he is a City of Madison Police Officer.
“It’s a wide, diverse range of skills that I’ve accumulated, and it all comes together to help me work with diverse populations,” he says with a smile that is infectious. “I can effectively communicate with a lot of different kinds of people, and really relate to them, because I’ve been in a lot of situations where people who are younger than me find themselves.”
A casual reader might assume that a story about Community Impact featuring a recent graduate who is a police officer would be, well, about working as a police office in Madison. In Williams’ case, it’s what he does away from the Madison Police Department that makes a big difference in the lives of the young people he reaches.
His passion is speaking with and mentoring young people about entering the work force, about the realities of the ‘real world,’ and about taking control – and responsibility.
His first work after graduation was with Commonwealth Development, a non-profit in Madison that focuses on improving the housing, business, racial equity and public health of Madison’s older neighborhoods. Williams mentored young people about career readiness, and financial literacy. As a recent graduate, he had plenty of personal experience to share.
“I didn’t have anyone as I was growing up who really sat down and explained to me how our credit system works and how important it is for getting a good apartment, or getting a low rate on your car,” he says.
What started as a job has become a central focus of Williams’ life – nearly all his time away from the streets of Madison is occupied by his service to others.
“I’m very active in the community, and that goes back to my time at Edgewood College,” he says. “I volunteered a lot - through different community centers, working with youth, working with adults, working with disadvantaged communities. I kept those relationships going through my professional life.”
Today, he’s starting to see the results of his early work at Commonwealth Development, as some of those young people he’s mentored continue their journeys.
“I’ve had students there who remember me now,” he says. “Working in the community as a police officer, and working around the city, I now get to see these young adults. It always feels good when students recognize me, and give a big smile. It’s the best feeling.”
Recently Williams served as a guest panelist for the inaugural MLK College Readiness & Success Summit, held at Edgewood College in January 2018.
With a very serious “day-job,” and with his other time devoted to working with young people, does Officer Williams have any time for fun?
“Once you get ahold of your financial situation, and really take control of your money, that’s an experience that releases a ton of stress,” he says. He’s made time to travel outside the country on several occasions, taking well-earned vacations from his work making a difference, both personally and professionally.
Oh, and then there’s his latest project. He’s created his own company to help spread his message of financial literacy and responsibility to reach a wider audience. “Cratic Capital Development,” he says smiling. “I envision it being another resource for financial literacy education. I’m now certified through the National Financial Education Council. Even though I’ve gone through Edgewood College’s NIFEL program, and have several years’ experience doing this, I want to continue to be an adult learner,” he says.
“I have a saying: ‘financial literacy is crucial in navigating this minefield called life. For if we do not know or truly understand the systems we are in, inevitably we will cripple ourselves or walk the path paved for us by someone else.’”
“We all have roadblocks,” he says. “I just want to assist people in hurdling those roadblocks, because I’ve definitely been there.”