Alumni Achiever - Mary Margaret Williamson, Summit High Class of 2015
Published August 31, 2021
If it wasn't for an injury she suffered in high school, Summit High School alumna Mary Margaret Williamson may have never found her passion in life. Mary Margaret was introduced to the world of athletic training as a freshman while playing for the school's varsity softball team. Fast forward 10 years and the former Spartan is in her first semester as a Ph.D. student with the College of Human Environmental Sciences at the University of Alabama.
What led you to want to study the field of athletic training?
I guess the story really started freshman year of high school when I was playing for Summit High School's varsity softball team. I got injured and was treated by the school's athletic trainer, Meg Stockham, who introduced me to the allied healthcare profession of athletic training. After my sophomore season, I hung up my cleats in favor of shadowing Ms. Stockham and serving as an athletic training student aide learning the ins and outs of sports medicine. I continued to work under her guidance through my senior year while completing College, Career and Technical Education (CCTE) Health Science courses at Summit.
Upon graduating from high school, I attended the University of Alabama on a full Presidential Scholarship and was accepted into the Athletic Training Program my sophomore year. During my time in the program, I had the privilege of working with many of the university's athletics teams, including the football team, both men's and women's basketball teams and the swimming and diving team. I was able to travel with the football team during their 2017 National Championship season and worked both the Sugar Bowl and the National Championship games. I also was able to travel with the men's basketball team. During my time in the program, I was also able to work at a local high school, which was an exciting time for me as high school athletic training was, and still is to an extent, where my passion lies. Upon completion of the program, graduating summa cum laude and passing the athletic training certification exam (the Board of Certification), I continued my studies at the University of Toledo, where I received my master's in exercise science with a concentration in athletic training. During my time in Toledo, I served as the graduate assistant athletic trainer for Toledo Christian Schools, Delta High School and EL Bowsher High School. The variety of school settings as well as my patients' cultural diversity helped me not only learn and grow as a clinician, but also as a person.
While completing my master's thesis, I discovered that I also have a passion for research, as well as a growing devotion to advocating for my profession. I decided that while I will always love working with patients and being on the front lines of healthcare, I also care deeply about the advancement of a profession that has already enriched my life beyond measure these last eight years. With that thought in mind, I applied to the Health Education and Promotion Ph.D. program at my alma mater in the School of Public Health with the hopes of gaining the necessary knowledge and experiences to pursue a career in athletic training education, promotion and research. In the future, it is my goal to teach in a Master of Science in athletic training program (the new current entry level standard for the profession) where I can help raise the next generation of athletic trainers while serving on National Athletic Training Association (NATA) committees and conducting research in an effort to raise awareness, support and advocate for athletic trainers and the patients we treat.
What did you enjoy most about your high school experience?
When I look back at my time in high school, the thing that sticks out the most to me was the true sense of ownership and community that we had. During his tenure as principal, Dr. Charles Farmer really fostered a culture of student ownership of their high school experience. We were brand new, so we got to set the precedent and the traditions that would hopefully be a legacy for years to come. Students were often involved in a variety of activities, so friend groups often spanned multiple disciplines and interests. Athletes were active in the arts departments, and we had students involved in culinary and health sciences. This sense of community and ownership really left an impression on me and has led me to pursue diverse experiences throughout my life. I myself was involved in a variety of activities outside of athletic training and athletics, including Health Occupational Students of America (HOSA), National Honors Society (NHS), National Technical Honors Society (NTHS) and Key Club. I was even in Summit's production of The Wizard of Oz my senior year.
What WCS teacher(s) made a difference in your life and how?
I had many teachers who I would consider instrumental to my current success. Deborah Bohn helped me elevate my writing and critical thinking skills and also provided me with the opportunity to travel abroad and be exposed to other diverse cultures and their rich histories. Christina Isong encouraged my development as a future healthcare professional in my many health science courses. Deedee Montgomery and Melanie Robe helped me to excel academically, pushing me to work hard during my demanding Advanced Placement (AP) and honors schedule. James Cherry taught me to persevere through tough subjects in which I lacked an affinity for, so much so that I even took AP chemistry with him after honors chemistry just to continue to challenge myself. Annie Rice helped me to overcome significant public speaking anxiety, which has been and will continue to be instrumental in my current career trajectory. Finally, I owe significant credit for where I am today to Meg Stockham, my high school athletic trainer, who without her I would never have found my calling.
Do you have any advice for current WCS students?
The greatest advice I can give to WCS students is try and go to a college or technical school (if that is your path, and it's okay if it isn't!) somewhere that offers a diverse student population and opportunities and programs that fit your interests. I have learned so much from my peers who come from different cultures, socioeconomic statuses, backgrounds and interests, and because of this I believe I have a more well-developed world view that has only bettered me as a healthcare provider and person. The more perspectives you hear, the more you can learn and grow, helping you to become more well-rounded, compassionate people with better communication skills and empathy. It's okay if you don't know what you want to do right now, but try to get involved in activities you are interested in. This goes for both high school and college. And hey, it never hurts to try something new! You never know what you might find interesting!