Zanae Williams is a go-getter. While most people may give up after defeat, she did not let her obstacles define her.
Williams, 23, is a sociology major at Florida A&M with only one-year left until she completes the program.
During her junior year of high school, she was diagnosed with clinical depression. Williams’ early diagnosis gave her the ability to structure her life and find a way to live with it on her own.
Kathleen Davis, Williams’ mother, was not aware of her daughter’s struggles.
“I had no knowledge of her illness, or how to handle it,” Davis said. “But I made adjustments and tried to accommodate her needs and try to make her happy during her troubling times.”
Her depression worsened after the death of her father, which caused her to drop out of school for two semesters.
“I was used to the drowning and the split second of air. I found a way to make the most out of the small moments of relief when my depression wasn’t consuming me,” Williams said. “When I lost my daddy, there was no split second of air. I was drowning, I was done.”
Williams’ withdrawals had maxed out and that caused her financial aid to be revoked. With no financial aid she was left with an outstanding balance of $3,000 and no way to pay for her next semester.
This kept her from returning to school.
While out of school, Williams got a job and worked her way up to a management position. There, she saved up enough money to pay back the university and then some.
In the meantime, Williams wanted to do something productive and fulfilling. Her sister, Zania Williams, suggested she start a business.
“After she came back home to get her mind right, I knew what she needed and it was just something to focus on,” Zania said. “When she was doing my hair for me I just threw out the idea and we all just started shooting out ideas after that.”
In the spring of 2018, she started her own company, A&N Holistic. She makes oils, hair and body moisturizers, conditioner and shampoo.
Williams shared stories about when she was a child, her mother would use a homemade oil and conditioner on her and her siblings’ hair made by her grandmother.
“People would compliment and adore my hair and ask for tips. I’d just say thank you and give credit to genetics, not realizing products played a part. Until my trip back home,” Williams said.
Williams was also a member of Trio, a program to aide first-generation students academically. In this program she made meaningful connections. Her academic coordinator Levia Wiley-Jackson shared her experience with Williams.
“Go getter, very confident. Shen I first met Zanae you couldn’t tell her nothing. She always knew what she wanted to do,” Jackson said. “Now, she's even more of a fighter. It was a pleasure to see her grow.”
Fast-forward to fall 2018: Williams applied and re-enrolled into FAMU. Her mother couldn’t have been more proud.
“Even with her emotions she’s destined for greatness,” Davis said. “I may not know much on the subject but I know my daughter. I know a detour when I see it. She was still going to be the best her she could be. It would just take time.”
Williams is in the process of appealing her financial aid and her withdrawals. Soon she will finish her last year, get her degree and further her business.
“Regardless of my circumstances, I will always strike, strike, and strike again,” Williams said.