Hubbard graduate turns down Tinseltown for law
HUBBARD — Renee E. Williams, 36, executive director of the National Center for Victims of Crime in Arlington, Va., left Hubbard at 18 with hopes of becoming a movie star.
“I wanted to be an actor. I went to Point Park for a theater degree. I thought I was going to be a mega-star. I love the stage, but I wanted to do movies,” said Williams, who graduated from Hubbard High School in 2002 and Point Park University in Pittsburgh in 2005.
Williams was pretty certain she was going to pursue a career in entertainment. She even interned for a summer on “The Young and the Restless” and got to be in a Ford Focus commercial with Fantasia Barrino, who won “American Idol” in 2004.
“I will say this was my one moment of glory. I managed to finagle my way up to the front, and so there are five or six shots of me dancing with Fantasia. It was a fun kickoff to L.A., but it was that summer that I really said that the acting thing wasn’t for me.”
Williams is the daughter of Gayle and Rick Williams, who still reside in Hubbard.
She graduated from Point Park a year early and decided that she didn’t want to just have a degree in theater. She quickly decided that she was going to go to law school to become a child- abuse prosecutor.
She didn’t believe her mom, however, that she would have to take a test to get into law school. Not having time to study, it was now or never.
“I had one last chance that year to take it. So I took that and applied to law schools. I don’t want to call it a whim, but it was kind of a whim,” Williams said.
After graduating from The University of Pittsburgh School of Law in 2008, Williams became a practicing attorney for about 10 years before finding her place with the National Center for Victims of Crime. A large part of the NCVC’s focus is child abuse and child sexual abuse.
“I went almost immediately into corporate law after law school, and I just always felt like there was something missing. Being a corporate lawyer is a dream of a lot of law students. When you first go to law school, you think that that’s what you want to do. You want to get the cushy in-house job and be very comfortable — and it is a very comfortable life. I just thought, ‘This wasn’t why I went to law school and I have so many more talents to give that aren’t being used here, what am I doing?'”
When Williams was young, she had a liver transplant and although everything went well, she’s seen how hard it is to be marginalized. Because of her experience, she feels a special connection to children.
“I have seen, in a very personal way, how child abuse can impact generations of family. … I get how hard it is sometimes for kids to express themselves and to be safe. So I saw how that had long-term ramifications over generations and that was my impetus for wanting to go into that work — and who doesn’t want to fight the bad guys?”
Williams became director of the National Crime Victims Bar Association and said she loves it.
The NCVBA is an affiliate and program of the NCVC. It is the nation’s first professional association of attorneys and expert witnesses dedicated to helping victims seek justice through the civil system. She ultimately left the job to run the larger company because she knew there were “bigger things to be done.”
“We started out as a victim advocacy organization in the ’80s because crime victims’ rights, especially throughout the criminal justice process, were really being trampled on,” Williams said. “Victims were really getting shuffled. And so we started to make sure that there was a crime victims bill of rights, to make sure that there were at least some basic rights in place for victims throughout the justice system.
“And so that’s been our guiding principle since: When you’re a victim and when you are facing the justice system, regardless of what type of victim — whether it be elder abuse, whether be child abuse, whether it be homicide, assault, whatever it is — you have rights.”
The NCVC is a nonprofit organization that advocates for victims’ rights, trains professionals who work with victims, and serves as a trusted source of information on victims’ issues.
This advocacy organization is committed to working on behalf of crime victims and their families. It focuses on all types of crime victims.
The NCVC provides direct services, rights and protection services, training and education as well as a variety of resources for victims across the nation.
“All of my experiences in Youngstown, and Hubbard especially, kind of led me to this job,” Williams said, recalling how the community came together to help her and her family after her transplant.
“The community of Youngstown, Warren and especially Hubbard came together for my family in ways that left a very lasting impression on me and that’s been a large guiding principle for me my whole life, that essence of community. … I think that that’s been a large driving factor for me and doing what I do.”