For 12 years, Pace has been supporting neurodiverse students and students on the autism spectrum through its Ongoing Academic Social Instructional Support (OASIS) program. This year, through initiatives from the President and Provost’s offices, OASIS has expanded its services to the Pace Community in Westchester.
Jeremiah Williams ‘23 has always been a talker. Born in New Orleans and raised in the suburbs of Houston, Jeremiah has honed his skills as a public speaker right here in New York City, where he’s studying political science and communication studies. “I realized at a young age that I was speaking up about things, challenging teachers when something didn’t make sense,” he recalls. “And that a lot of people weren’t comfortable or able to do that.”
While in high school, Jeremiah traveled the country as part of the speech and debate teams, but eventually his public speaking journey brought him to Pace’s New York City Campus. His decision to come to Pace opened a door to a truly incredible opportunity: taking the podium to address one of the largest international groups in the world.
This fall, Jeremiah was selected as a youth speaker on behalf of Pace and the University’s Peace and Justice Studies Department to give a life-altering statement to the United Nations First Committee. He seized the moment to discuss youth engagement and peace, disarmament, and non-proliferation education. It takes courage to find yourself speaking in front of so many countries and non-political organizations, and Jeremiah had no lack of courage when his moment came. A voice for his peers, Jeremiah recognizes the power of speaking up when it counts.
“Sometimes we’re afraid to recognize the power of our voice, but I know the power of mine,” says Jeremiah. “And when it’s on behalf of a cause that’s important to me or a group of people that need to feel heard, I am more than comfortable using my voice for them. My voice isn’t just mine.”
Today, Jeremiah is trying to keep up with the opportunities in his path following his speech to the UN. He was recently invited to speak in a room filled with ambassadors and Heads of State, a place he wouldn’t have dreamed of being at such a young age: “I had never thought I’d be speaking to ambassadors at twenty—I’m still trying to figure out what subway line to take,” he laughs.
“Sometimes we’re afraid to recognize the power of our voice, but I know the power of mine,” says Jeremiah.
Along with pursuing these new experiences, Jeremiah is also the founding president of Pace’s debate club. His goal is to give people the tools to speak confidently and passionately about matters that they care about. “You see a problem or an issue and you’re surrounded by all of this noise, all of this news, but can you do anything about it? For me, I’ve always innately thought ‘yes’. A lot of people need to be shown that they’re voices are powerful or given the tools to make them feel powerful,” he says.
Jeremiah hopes to help prepare young public speakers for the moments when the spotlight is suddenly on; the moments in which they will need to use their voice when they might not be expecting to do so. This is a challenge Jeremiah is quite excited to take head-on.
“Life’s crazy, and the moments come when you’re not expecting them. Yet, here they are. People need to feel confident and powerful enough to know that their voice matters.”