Lafayette K. Williams, who graduated from Buffalo State with a bachelor’s degree in May, received a boost for his upcoming studies in the higher education administration graduate program—a $10,000 scholarship from the Seneca Diabetes Foundation (SDF).
Williams is a member of the Seneca Nation of Indians, Beaver Clan.
During his years as an undergraduate, Williams served as a resident assistant in the Native American suite in the North Wing Residence Hall, as an orientation leader for incoming students, and as a member of the Native American Students Organization.
Funded by SDF founders Barry and Deanna Snyder, the scholarship is awarded to graduate students who have leadership experience. Almost $300,000 has been awarded to Seneca Nation students since the program was established in 2007.
"One of the reasons I decided to pursue higher education was so that I could give back to my Seneca community and someday to all Native America communities in order to combat this terrible disease, which is so prevalent among our people and other ethnicities as well," Williams said during a recent award ceremony. Williams also thanked all the faculty and staff at Buffalo State, especially his mentor Tim Ecklund, associate vice president in the Campus Life Office, and his Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) adviser Evelyn Rosario.
The Snyders formed SDF in 2004 with the mission of raising awareness of the disease that disproportionately affects Native Americas. One in two Seneca Nation members is diagnosed with diabetes, including Williams. He learned he had Type II diabetes during his fourth semester at Buffalo State and became so ill he had to take a leave of absence.
"I took a year off, worked on eating better and exercising until I was well enough to come back and finish," said Williams, who is 49 and started at Buffalo State as an EOP student in 2005. He created an individualized studies major focusing on Native American studies, communication, social work, and health and wellness.
Attending Buffalo State as a non-traditional student, Williams said, "was the best choice I could have made because the campus is so diverse; I blended right in."