By Jordyn Grzelewski
Jean Williams was the last Sunrise of Poland resident Delonte Carter saw during his final shift as an aide there.
When Carter started his first shift as a nurse at the senior-living facility, Williams was the first resident he saw.
It was fitting, because Carter might not have become a nurse were it not for help from Williams.
Carter, 25, of Youngstown, has been working at Sunrise since he was 19.
“I’ve done everything from maintenance to supervisor to caregiver,” he said.
Recently, he decided that he want to take a step forward in his career by becoming a nurse.
“I was searching for something. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I wanted to do something more to show my children there is a better life,” said Carter, a father of two.
Carter experienced a setback, however, when he took the entrance exam to get into a nursing program. Tripped up by the mathematics section, Carter failed the test.
Unsure of what to do, Carter sat down with his boss, Sunrise of Poland Executive Director Kerry Collins Smith. She had a suggestion for him: Talk to Jean.
Williams, who has lived at Sunrise for four years, retired as a teacher in 1995. In her 471/2 years as an educator, Williams taught every grade level. She taught students with developmental disabilities, and later in the Youngstown school district. She also taught college students.
Williams agreed to tutor Carter, and promptly put him on a strict study regimen. The two studied together for two hours before and two hours after each of Carter’s shifts at Sunrise for more than a month. During those two-hour sessions, Williams allowed no cellphones and no distractions.
“She was very stern with me. She gave me homework,” Carter said. “She was tough on me. She made sure I got it.”
Williams found Carter to be a model student.
“He is an eager learner. He is a conscientious person. And he studied diligently,” she said. “And I must add that he knows how to study – and that makes all the difference in the world.”
Williams is insistent on that point: Results come with effort, and nothing else.
“You have to put in the work. There’s no magic,” she said.
Carter’s work paid off – he passed his entrance exam the second time around, and graduated from his nursing program in June. He is now a licensed practical nurse.
His success came as no surprise to his tutor.
“I was just waiting for the results because I knew he had passed,” Williams said. “I was positive he had passed.”
Carter credits much of that success to Williams, saying, “I really owe a lot to her. I can’t say how much I’m thankful for her taking her time out.”
Collins Smith was inspired by what she saw from both Carter and Williams.
“Delonte has such a compassionate heart and desire to learn. I just saw such potential in him,” she said. “I’m just glad Jean is still able to give back and is willing to give back, because she changed Delonte’s life.”
Accomplishing this goal has inspired Carter to think even bigger. He tells Collins Smith that he wants her job someday.
“It makes me want to set more [goals],” he said. “It fuels the drive even more.”