Devique McWilliams had a rough start in life. At only six weeks old, he was diagnosed with meningitis — an inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord — and doctors thought he would die.
But he didn’t, and McWilliams been demonstrating the inner strength that helped him survive ever since.
The Davidson High student overcame speech and learning difficulties as a result of the meningitis, which kept him from talking until he was 6, and has become a 3.5 student and a leader in Davidson’s Navy JROTC program.
McWilliams is one of five students around the state to be named a 2018 Young Hero of Alabama, an award presented by Alabama Public Television.
“Devique often thinks about the struggles of his childhood and uses those experiences to motivate him toward a brighter future,” Davidson senior Naval Science instructor Capt. Tom Daniel, USN, Ret., wrote in nominating McWilliams.
In his role in NJROTC, McWilliams attends meetings to discuss occupations and sets monthly program goals for personal improvement. He also attends NJROTC practices and instills knowledge, good character and healthy lifestyle habits to the cadets.
He maintains a significant role in his fraternity, the Alpha Elites, which visits churches, nursing homes and colleges, helps with community projects, and works to serve the needy.
McWilliams is the only student from the southern half of the state selected for Young Hero honor this year. The others are: Denver Benjamin of Cherokee High School, Brianna Evans of West Morgan High School, Aidan Mills of Hazel Green High School and Andrew Walker of Florence High School.
They each will receive a $5,000 scholarship to the college, university or technical school of their choice, a Chromebook laptop or tablet and other prizes from APT sponsors. Next week, they will visit the Alabama State Capitol and Rosa Parks Museum, and be honored at an awards dinner in Montgomery.