South Side High School


For a month last fall, McKingsley Ryan Williams dealt with the rigors of senior year all from a hospital bed -- the limits of mathematical integration, conjugating French verbs.

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The Rockville Centre student was recuperating from heart surgery, six years after he was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a genetic disorder that has left him in a wheelchair.

Still, it was his final year of high school, and Williams insisted on not falling behind. The school set him up with an iPad, and through the FaceTime video chat program his International Baccalaureate classes were streamed live.

"So I wouldn't be totally lost when I got back," he said.

Williams, 18, kept at it -- though he had to swap calculus BC for an easier AB class so he could end his day earlier and rest.

Williams is loved at South Side, where he is part of the principal's advisory committee, works in the main office, and presses lecturers on issues as diverse as Middle Eastern politics and educational reform.

When Andrew Young visited, Williams didn't ask him the customary civil rights-related question. According to Principal Carol Burris, who said she thought Williams might ask Young about meeting famous people, Williams asked about the Middle East conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis. She remembers Young being "quite impressed" with the question.

Burris describes Williams as "an inspiration to his classmates" who is "humble, but still understands the unique opportunity" he has to affect his peers.

His classmates cheered as he was beamed into IB class the first morning, promptly at 8:02.

By October, Williams was fully recovered from his surgery. He won science competitions and kept managing his tutor network. When he was ready to return to South Side, his schoolmates greeted him with a surprise, choosing him to be Homecoming King. Weeks later, he made sure he was ready for the coronation.

"I didn't want to let anybody down," Williams said.

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HIGHER ED: Williams will attend Stony Brook University, where he will major in engineering science.



"All the clubs, making new friends. And advancing science research: I want to do something that will help change the world."

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What makes you


"My personality -- usually when anything happens, I always have a positive and optimistic outlook."