Staff Feature: Richard Watts’ Story of Service

Richard Watts lives by a powerful motto: “Believe in yourself and believe in your dreams. If you can do those two things, there is nothing that can hold you back.”

Watts, who serves as the assistant director of Crosby’s AAMPED (African American Males Pursuing Educational Dreams) program, holds unwavering faith in his students and their potential. He states “AAMPED gives me the opportunity to express to kids… believe in yourself and believe in your dreams. I am going to help you and your family figure out that pathway, whatever it may look like.”

Watts credits his passion for giving back to key role models and mentors in his journey, such as a faculty advisor at Wake Forest who played a paternal role in his life. “He would take me off campus on the weekends, I would be with his children, be a part of his family; when I couldn’t go home for Thanksgiving I would come to his house for Thanksgiving dinner. I have learned through him and some other people: give back.”

Growing up in Fredericksburg, Virginia, Richard Watts drew early inspiration from his parents, who, despite not completing high school, worked tirelessly to provide for their five children. Watts also speaks to the blessing of a high school guidance counselor who encouraged him to aim high and apply to out of state universities. “I got accepted to Wake Forest and they gave me a better financial package. I needed money, they gave me almost a free ride, and so I said ‘I’m going to Wake Forest.'”

In his life, Watts has elevated passion over ambition. Upon learning of his acceptance at Wake Forest, his friends and family attempted to dissuade him from pursuing a teaching career.
“People would tell me ‘in teaching you don’t make any money, it’s a hard job and a lot of work’. But I knew it inspired me and I stayed the course because that was my passion, and I am just grateful that I did.”

After graduating from Wake Forest, Watts became an 8th grade social study teacher, and was rewarded with a long and meaningful career in education; “those are some of the best memories I ever had; I got all my students in my cell phone just about, those 10 years were great times.”

Watts’ career is a testament to his motto. His time at Crosby Scholars has followed a thirty-two year stint in education, where he served as a teacher, assistant principal and principal in the WSFCS school district. In addition to his work with AAMPED, Watts now serves as a member of the WSFCS School Board, and continues to pastor his congregation of thirty-six years at Rickards Chapel AME Zion Church.

The common thread in Watts’ many roles? Servant leadership: “You can be a leader by serving, and I’ve always tried to do that; all three of these roles I consider to be ministries: helping people, helping young people, and serving the community.” Richard Watts isn’t one to chase opportunities; they seem to chase him. Many of Watts largest career milestones, such as becoming a pastor and assistant principal, were the result of answering the call of his community. These ‘positive blessings’ as he calls them, have both shaped his path and touched countless lives.

Offering encouragement to young people, Richard emphasizes self-belief: “find what it is that excites you, what inspires you – It may not be college; it may be work after high school, it may be military, but whatever that IT is, pursue it…that is going to lead you to other opportunities.”

Whatever students choose, he encourages them to follow their hearts and have open conversations with their families about their aspirations, “eventually find your passion, and just go for it.”

Story by Haley Dyer