Former gang member now inspires as middle school instructor and mentor

Former gang member now inspires as middle school instructor and mentor
Vickie Wilson (Source: WMBF News)
Vickie Wilson (Source: WMBF News)

CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - Life could have been much different for Vickie Wilson, but the middle school instructor said it was someone at her high school that made an impact on her life and inspired her to do what she does today.

Wilson was once a troubled teen running the streets of Indianapolis, who admitted her life was out of control at a young age..

She was in and out of jail, a member of a gang and always fighting.

"My childhood, I was very frustrated. I was very angry," she said. "I fought all the time because of the dysfunction in my family."

The former gang member, found refuge in crime and violence. While many told her she would never amount to anything, there was one person who spoke the opposite.

It turned out to be her high school's security guard.

"She arrested me (for) shoplifting, she arrested me (for) gambling in the bathroom, she arrested me (for) fighting," Wilson said.  "She was always there, and every time Ms. Vaughn came around, she would always say, 'Vickie, life does not have to be like this.'"

Wilson said the security officer made a difference in her life and so she wanted to make a difference for others.

As her life of violence and crime was catching up with her, she entered the military. During basic training, Wilson was arrested for an assault and battery charge. At that point, it was time to make a change.

"This time when they put in me jail, I hear the doors cling, and it was a clinging that I had never heard before," she said. "They said, 'Vickie by the time you get out, it could be 20 years.'"

Now she is the in-school suspension instructor at Whittmore Park Middle School. Wednesday, Wilson was honored with the Horry County Schools' Support Staff Employee of the Year Award for her hard work and dedication.

"I am honored. I am overwhelmed at how much God is showing me that he cares about me with this award," she said..

Wilson was first employed with HCS as a substitute teacher before becoming the ISS instructor in 2012.

"I knew I had to have the right person for the job. Vickie had the military background, so I knew the discipline would be there. And I knew from working with her before she was passionate," said Judy Beard, principal at Whittmore Park Middle School.

Working with students assigned to in-school suspension because of disciplinary problems, Wilson takes the time to help redirect their focus and turn their negative energy into positive motivation.

"You say you can't, I say, 'Yes, you can,'" she said. "You say you won't, I say, 'Yes, you will.'"

Beard described Wilson as an advocate for children that may not have a voice.

"Through her work, we've seen children make incredible progress," Beard said.

Wilson's work reaches beyond the classroom. She started a mentoring group for girls called "Qualities, Unique, Elevated, Express with Nobility," or Q.U.E.E.N.S.

The group teaches eighth-grade girls about self-worth, self-esteem, etiquette and making good life choices.

"You want them to look in the mirror and see they are beautiful young ladies that have a purpose," Wilson said. "They are queens, and if they can tell themselves that and believe that about themselves, then they will begin to present themselves that way."

She hopes to have the same impact on her students' lives that Ms. Vaughn did on hers.

"She never criticized me, she never degraded me, and even though she arrested me, she encouraged me, so I have utmost respect for Ms. Vaughn," Wilson said. Wilson.

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