“A change of scenery helps you grow,” said WillJay Steger in the opening of his Chapel Talk, delivered on April 9. And, WillJay shared what was a big change for him, beginning last year. The experience of coming to Amelia Academy changed his perspective, to say the least.
Even though he loves his hometown of Norfolk, WillJay said that he was glad he came to Amelia. He found out about the Academy from an AAU teammate, Kameron Harris, a 2018 AA graduate. After his junior year, he realized that he needed a change. “I wasn’t focused at all,” he said. “And, it showed everywhere—at home, school, and on the basketball court.” A change of scenery was needed, and he decided to re-consider the Academy.
The culture shock was immediate. “My parents and I pulled up into the middle of nowhere to a small school in between a cut of woods,” he said. “I told them we must be at the wrong place, but that was where the GPS brought us.”
Even though the experience of moving to live with the Harris family and changing schools seemed daunting, WillJay persevered. “When I left home, my mom and girlfriend cried, which made me sad, but I knew I would always have them by my side,” he said. WillJay also knew how much he would miss his dad, whom he described as “my favorite person.”
He credited his dad with being a positive role model. “He’s taught me how to work and be responsible, to never depend on anyone, and to work harder than everyone else for what I want,” he said.
WillJay also found it difficult to leave his girlfriend, Kyra, who he described as his best friend and “a great person.”
Arriving in Amelia to live with the Harris family, WillJay was apprehensive about living with another family. However, he said the experience has been “amazing.” “They treat me as if I were their own child,” he said, “even if that meant getting the look from Ms. Val if I got a bad quiz grade.” The Harris family has become more than a host family; they are his family, WillJay said.
Arriving at Amelia Academy provided an opportunity for WillJay to change his viewpoint. Joining a student body different from what he was accustomed to felt nearly impossible. “I am not going to like these hillbillies,” he thought when he first arrived. “However, I was wrong.”
He quickly made friends with Tyler Gough and Brent Carwile, despite their differences. He also met Jamal Grant, who has become “like a brother to me.”
WillJay said the friendships he made at the Academy have been “life-changing.” He also credited teachers with “helping us become better people and more responsible.”
As he looks toward graduation next month and the future, WillJay reflected on his life journey that brought him to Amelia. “Sometimes God puts people in your life, and you have no idea why. But, you shouldn’t question it because everything He does is for the best.”
As a student at the Academy, WillJay has played basketball and was captain of the team this past season. WillJay was named All-State this year. He was named Player of the Year for the Virginia Colonial Conference (VCC). WillJay also received All-Conference and All-Tournament recognition.
Attending his Chapel Talk were his parents, LaDonya and William Steger, and his girlfriend Kyra. Also present were Valerie and Gregory Harris and their son Greg, an Academy sophomore.