District Attorney Seth Williams had some direct and forthright advice for students at the ASPRIA Excel Academy recently.
The Olney Charter High School annex serves students from ages 17 to 22 desiring to complete their high school education with a diploma.
Students from Northwest and Northeast Philadelphia meet in traditional type classrooms on the campus of the old Cardinal Dougherty High School.
Williams was the keynote speaker for their assembly program held Thursday May 10. Students were privy to the life lessons Williams learned when he was arrested as a juvenile, the sometimes wayward course he took while a student at the Pennsylvania State University’s old Ogontz (now Abington) campus, and his transition to becoming an elected official.
“When you calculate how much time is involved in (standing on the corner) and how much they actually get for selling drugs, it can’t make you rich,” said Williams, to the school managed by the Camelot partnership. “Some people think they are making a lot of money. Actually the average drug dealer makes about $8 an hour. They could probably make more if they went to the supermarket and purchased a case of water with 24 bottles in it for $3.99 and then stood on the corner selling the bottles for $1.”
Another lesson was the link between completing high school and eventually ending up in jail. Williams pointed out the common denominator among the highest percentage of those incarcerated was not the fact that they were juveniles, a member of a minority group, used a gun in their crime, or any of the other answers students at ASPIRA gave.
“The thing most of them have in common is that they did not finish high school,” he said. “When you finish high school you have more options. When you do not finish high school there are fewer jobs that you can actually get. So not finishing high school and ending up in jail does go hand in hand.”
His advice to the students was to follow their passion in choosing a career. He quoted from author Mark Twain when he said, “The secret to success if making your vacation your vocation” meaning to make one’s profession something they would do in their spare time.
“I think our students found DA Seth Williams’ remarks as an inspiration and insightful,” said Sadiqa Lucas, executive director of ASPIRA Excel Academy. “Students could easily identify with his life story as he presented it. It lets them know they, too, can succeed.”