In her capacity as youth ambassador and spokesperson for the Towson Area Citizens on Patrol, Amy Williams drew on her own experience in connecting with younger children.
"I really got to become a role model for a lot of the younger kids, and teach them that it's OK: if you see something suspicious, you need to say something," she said.
"You can't just let that go by," she said. "You need to tell an adult, tell someone you trust, tell your parent.
"Even if you're 6 years old, you can still make a difference."
Williams, 17, of Stoneleigh, is being honored as the Towson Area Citizens on Patrol Young Leader of the Year at the organization's 12th annual Rally Against Crime, which will be held before the Chamber of Commerce's Feet on the Street concert at 6 p.m. on Friday, June 15.
Not coincidentally, she was just 6 years old when she became involved with the organization.
She attended an event at the Stoneleigh pool parking lot with her mother, Pam, and sisters, Allison Leonard, then 11, and Katie Williams, then 13.
The organizers asked if any of the siblings wanted to wear a Citizens on Patrol T-shirt, and the youngest was the only one willing. Pam Williams said the shirt went down to her daughter's ankles.
"They took a picture, and I was front and center," Amy Williams said. "After that, they asked if I'd like to be the Towson Area Citizens on Patrol Youth Ambassador. I was thrilled, so excited."
Her chief responsibility was to deliver a speech at the annual National Night Out event.
She remembers that first speech, at age 7, quite well. It was only seven lines long, but she memorized it and recited it without pause, earning praise from observers for her lack of nerves.
Williams gained more responsibility when she was named the group's spokeswoman at age 10, and a year later, an elected official at National Night Out paid her a compliment she hasn't forgotten.
"One of the politicians said, 'Please don't run for office, you'll run me out of a job,' " Williams said. "I've never forgotten that."
She even got to put her message to use. One year, she and her father saw a group of teenagers throwing toilet paper on Mischief Night. Her father shined a light on them, and the teens fled.
These days, she still keeps an eye out while driving through her neighborhood, but has shifted her focus toward her love of animals, both at Notre Dame Preparatory School in Hampton, and in the Stoneleigh community.
She became involved in the Partnership for Animal Welfare at Notre Dame Prep, where she organized school-wide donation drives and animal shelter visits. She was the organization's vice president as a junior, and rose to become president as a senior.
She was a flautist in the school's concert band, and a member of the school's honor board. Williams will study civil engineering at the University of Alabama next year.
But before she heads south, she will once again take the stage before the Citizens on Patrol — something her mother believes will be a welcome distraction. Amy's father, Howard Williams, passed away on May 20 from inflammation of the brain and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Pam Williams said he was ill for all of Amy's senior year, but when Amy was working with the Citizens on Patrol, he would be in the crowd documenting every speech with his camera.
"The fact that she's getting this award and is getting up there in front of people just says something about Amy," she said. "I know that he'd be very proud of her."
Williams will be sharing Friday's spotlight with two other local crime-fighting leaders.
Wesley Wood, director of Baltimore County Police and Community Relations Council-Towson Precinct, will receive TACOP's Recognition Award.
Wood, a resident of Towson since 1956, has been involved in the Police and Community Relations Council since 2002, and is also active in his COP unit in Campus Hills.
And, Police Chief James Johnson will receive the Achievement Award — marking not only his service, but the fifth anniversary of his appointment to chief of police.
TACOP includes residents covering the areas of Aigburth Manor, Aigburth Vale Mansion Senior Community, Anneslie, Burkleigh Square, Campus Hills, Donnybrook Apartments, East Towson, Fellowship Forest, Glendale/Glenmont, Greenbrier, Hillendale, Hillendale Improvement Association, Idlewylde, Knettishall, Knollwood/Donnybrook, Loch Raven Heights, Loch Raven Village, Olde Hillendale, Overbrook, Ridgeleigh Community, Ridgely Condominium Association, Rodgers Forge, Stoneleigh, Towson Manor Village, West Towson and Wiltondale.
For more details on Towson Area Citizens on Patrol, call 410-828-5564.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun