Student Spotlight: Oliver Williams, ‘24 and His Internship with NAGLY

Art & Art History major Oliver Williams talks to us about his internship at NAGLY- North Shore Alliance of GLBTQ+ Youth, located in Salem, MA
Headshot of Oliver Williams
Headshot of Oliver Williams

In the heart of Witch City Center, Art & Art History major Oliver Williams spent a semester working with the North Shore Alliance of GLBTQ+ Youths (NAGLY). The largest LGBTQ+ youth center in the country, NAGLY looks to “honor, respect, educate, and empower” the queer youth of today through sponsoring and hosting counseling and support groups geared towards LGBTQ+ folks, and by being a safe space for folks to go to without fear of being judged.

As a Peer Leader, Williams got firsthand experience working with the varying of ages that NAGLY looks to support. Specifically with middle-school students, Williams helped with homework, was available to talk out social issues, and provided them with a space to feel safe.

One skill Williams talks about learning was building his ability “to identify when an individual may be going through a crisis, and how to direct them to the proper resources if they needed assistance.” Though not authorized to provide professional care, Williams was able to gain experience in identifying and notifying the proper people if said professional care was recommended or needed.

His experience did not come without challenges. One issue Williams told us about was when folks came in one day and tore up the NAGLY office. Because of this, there was increased security in their office and throughout their location to make sure the people did not return and repeat the offense. Luckily, that never happened again.

Through the challenging times, though, Williams says his experience with NAGLY was an amazing one. He was continuously recognized for his work by fellow staff in meetings. He also knew his work meant something to the youths he assisted. His piece of advice to other students looking for internships is to find one “that you’re passionate about, or feel passionate about,” for it will make your experience so much more meaningful.

Inspired by his experience at NAGLY, Williams is now finishing up his senior year with a capstone that reflects his internship work. Alongside an art therapist, he will be working with youths aged 12-23 on creating works of art that communicate their views on themselves and the world around them. Through various mediums, Williams says the art “will primarily focus… on how one views themselves, and how said person wants to be viewed by the world around them.” A later goal of his project will be displaying their work in an in-person or virtual gallery space.

“I’ve found, through both as a youth, and now a peer leader, that the latest generations of young people have the strong desire to create, if not for themselves, for others,” Williams says. “The [folks] I’ve worked with have expressed how much they value creativity and self expression through the space itself—they have painted ceiling tiles together, created outfits and costumes from the donations from the Boutique, written music and poems, amongst many other things. My colleagues and youths from NAGLY are my inspirations and my driving force for this capstone.”

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