“Well you know Jacob, he’s a 30-year old man amongst teenage highschool boys,” Rich Marion , Ann Arbor Pioneer’s head basketball coach told me. Marion is talking about Jacob Williams, a senior at Pioneer high school and one of the leaders of the Pioneer boys basketball team. Jacob Williams isn’t your usual high schooler - he doesn’t care much about what clothes he wears, the parties he attends, or any of the other usual high school drama. Instead, Jacob cares about the people around him and the way he impacts their lives.
Jacob spent his elementary and middle school years at a charter school called Fortis Academy, a relatively small school in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Here Jacob learned that a small school wouldn’t fit him well in the future. “I grew out of Fortis pretty quickly, I reached a point where I knew everyone too well and there was nothing to expand on, I became bored,” said Jacob. This inspired Jacob to choose Pioneer as his high school. “Pioneer provided new opportunities and people to meet,” Jacob recalled. To Jacob many things in life had come naturally to him. He’s been a varsity basketball player for three years and looks to play in college. On top of that he is a grade ahead in math and scored a five on the Calculus Advanced Placement (A.P.) test. “Pioneer provided a new challenge for me,” he said, “I wanted to see if I could handle all the new things and still be successful.”
Jacob judges his success in high school not by his grades or how many points he scores in a basketball game, but by who he impacts. Under these terms, Jacob certainly has been successful at Pioneer. When walking through the halls of Pioneer with him over the last week I couldn’t help but notice how many people he greets or stops to have a quick check up with, adults and students alike. “Jacob’s someone who always lifts you up and encourages you, it makes him someone I can always go to if I have any problems,” Sophomore teammate Michael Eder said. On the basketball team Jacob is famous for getting free meals or clothing deals at stores around Ann Arbor. He gets this treatment because at all those stores there’s someone who’s life Jacob has impacted for good. Jacob is also a part of Pioneer’s Trailblazers program where he gets to work with students in the local elementary schools. “My brother told me you need to be strong for others when they can’t be strong for themselves, and that’s all I try to do,” Jacob said.
This doesn’t mean Jacob isn’t human, he also has ran into heavy adversary through high school. In the beginning of his Sophomore year Jacob suffered several injuries including a badly broken finger and consistently bad ankle. These injuries became minor to Jacob when he jumped up for a block in a scrimmage and landed wrong, tearing his ACL. “I came down and I just couldn’t get back up,” he recalled. Basketball also meant a lot to Jacob and the injury took a toll. “I found myself in a bubble of negative energy and began to cut everyone off,” Jacob said. “I had to break out of that and get back to me, so I began to look forward to the small improvements and stay positive.” Since then Jacob has helped Eder, his younger teammate, through an ACL tear as well. “He understood the injury and the toll it takes, he always made sure I was doing good and staying on top of my rehab,” Eder said.
Jacob’s spent his time in highschool pouring his energy into other people around him. He is known as a positive influence, someone to seek advice from, and overall as a leader. However sometimes students may forget to pour back into him. “I can’t define leadership, but I can tell you it’s often lonely” he said, “when people come to you so frequently for help they begin to think you never need any of it yourself.” Jacob, an extremely humble person, admits he’s had to learn how to ask for help with things such as his injury.
Jacob isn’t known for being extremely loud like the usual outgoing type. Instead he is quiet, thoughtful, and controlled. Jack Fitzgerald, a long term teammate, said “Jacob’s quiet but he speaks his mind when needed and he is extremely honest and thoughtful, which helps him be such a good leader.” Jacob Williams has touched many lives in Pioneer high school, “When he asks you how you’re doing, you know he really means it,” said Michael Eder. Jacob will leave this school successful, and behind him he’ll leave younger students who are better off thanks to him. “To me the single most important thing in life is relationship building, it will take you places,” Jacob said.