BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — 27-year-old Keon Williams grew up in the Pilgrim Village and attended Makowski Early Childhood enter in Buffalo.
It’s been a long time sine he’s walked those halls.
But Friday morning, Williams took a trip back down memory lane…to see a woman he said helped make him the man he is today.
“I don’t even know what she looks like, I remember this 23-year-old woman with freckles,” said Williams. “Now, I don’t even know who to expect.”
His mother, father, aunts and friends all gathered in the entryway to the school to help him carry his haul — he didn’t show up empty-handed.
“She was a huge influence on my life. The first teacher I had that brought me to visit her family, and experience the way they live, and draw that intimate connection to let us know that she cares about us.”
Williams reflected back on the reasons his old elementary school teacher, who asked to be called “Ms. H” to protect her privacy, meant so much to him.
“It was encouragement from a great place, a genuine place that my family recognized. She would come into my neighborhood and pick me up and drop me off and a lot of people would not even step foot in this part of Buffalo.”
From the projects of Buffalo, Keon spent most of his early years in the Buffalo Public School system until his senior year of high school. He finished at Sweet Home High before going on to play football at Gardner-Webb University.
Williams now works as a corporate investment banking on the sales and trading side for Wells Fargo in Charlotte, North Carolina.
He flew in just to surprise his old teacher with a day he hoped she would never forget.
He wondered, shortly before he entered her classroom — whether she’d even remember him.
“I absolutely remember Keon, I absolutely, do.”
Ms. H embraced Williams as he entered her classroom with another former classmate, Christian.
“Keon was such a special cool little guy.”
And before he presented her with the gifts he brought for the class, Williams invited one last guest to join the party.
Mayor Byron Brown arrived to tell what he called a “Christmas Story” about a young man in Buffalo who worked hard, became successful, and came back to thank those who helped him along the way.
After officially declaring December 20, 2019 “Keon Williams Day” in the City of Buffalo — it was time for the gifts.
Williams purchased a STEM-based building toy for every student in Ms. H’s class to unwrap and use.
“Every time I hear from a former student, it makes me feel proud.”
But… he wasn’t done.
In addition to sharing gifts and words of encouragement for the Pre-K crowd, Williams had one last surprise for Ms. H.
He established a foundation in her name that will contribute $1,000 each year until she retires to her classroom to help with teaching expenses, supplies, and educational tools.
“That brought tears to my eyes, I was not expecting that at all,” she said.
“When I got to college I stared to just reflect on people who had an influence on my life that more or less shaped me into who I am today…without a doubt she’s one of those people,” said Williams.
Ms. H thinks what happened in her class Friday will have a lasting impact on the students of the next generation.
“They see my two former students, all grown up, in their suits and I think they think they’re stars — which they are. My students will look up to them and say hey, you know what, I can do that too…I can do that, too.”