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William Thomas, Class of 1996

William Thomas



William grew up in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Wilkinsburg and attended Holy Rosary Middle School in Homewood-Brushton.  With the financial assistance of a Crossroads scholarship, he was able to attend Central Catholic High School rather than the failing public high school in his district.  But more than that, he was able to access all of the critical additional support in tutoring, college and career preparation, and counseling that Crossroads provides as part of its distinctive, holistic scholarships.


With Crossroads’ support and guidance, William was able to matriculate to St. Vincent College, where he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree of Accounting in 2000.  He went on to earn his Masters of Accountancy from Notre Dame in 2001.


William is currently employed as an Executive Director in Americas Advisory RISK and Industrial Products Sectors for the leading global accounting firm Ernst & Young. 



CR: What was your biggest obstacle in achieving your goals?


WILLIAM: I didn’t have obstacles per se. They would have been more appropriately labeled as “threats.” Accordingly, the biggest threat was being distracted by, and/or pulled into the illicit activities of my troubled neighborhood and surroundings similar to parents, family members and peers at the time. I always say that a deviant sub-culture didn’t exist in my community. Instead, deviance WAS the culture itself.


CR: How do you define your own success?


WILLIAM: I define my own success by surrounding myself with people of integrity and exceptional talent in some shape or form and always believing that there is no such thing as “can’t”. Something my father would always say when I was younger.


CR: What is your greatest achievement?


WILLIAM: Consistently embracing “giving” as a value. I believe that we can’t always control what we receive in life, but we can always control what and how much we give.


CR: How did Crossroads impact your life and help you to have a successful future?


WILLIAM: In high school and college, Crossroads for me was Susie Gillespie, Sister Sandy, Shelly Casey, Charles Shealey and the Judeo-Christian value system. After college, as I became a member of the Crossroads Board of Directors, that definition was extended to the board, committees, fellow alumni network and donors. In both cases, the significance of Crossroads for me amounts to security, familiarity and foundation. No matter where I went or what I experienced, Crossroads, through the genuine care and giving of those human beings, was home base. No matter if I needed perspective from Shelly or Charles mid-day while they were visiting Central Catholic while in high school or just validation and reassurance through the faith that Sister Sandy had in me while in college, Crossroads was an anchor in an otherwise tumultuous and unpredictable home life and community environment. Through these individuals, and their support and direction, I learned what was possible for me and that I was more than capable of achieving of it because I was made to feel exceptional and as if I had something very powerful to contribute to this world. Armed with that, success was inevitable.


CR: Why do you give to Crossroads?


WILLIAM: I support the Crossroads Foundation financially because I believe in the mission, I believe in the problem for which it is trying to solve, and the precipitating conditions for that problem. Also, I wholeheartedly believe in Crossroads’ ability to make a positive impact regarding that mission with respect to the leadership (exceptionally astute leaders whose capabilities are only rivaled by their genuinely caring hearts), program model and approach, and the critical contribution to the Crossroads formula made by a values-based education. If I could personally provide more high-potential students in at-risk neighborhoods with the Crossroads experience, I would. The financial support that I provide (both in the form of donations and also historically sponsoring someone directly) helps me contribute to that end.


CR: If you were to speak face-to-face with the donors who helped fund Crossroads Foundation during your tenure, what would you say to them?


WILLIAM:  If I were to speak face-to-face with the donors I would tell them my story and I would tell them candidly that the sole reason why I am able to speak with them face-to-face at this point in my life is a result of Crossroads. There is no doubt in my mind that without Crossroads, my life journey would have been a bleak and arduous one to say the least.


CR: What do you wish other people knew about Crossroads Foundation?


WILLIAM: I wish people truly understood how transformative the Crossroads Foundation is to the life trajectory of its students and they appreciated the effectiveness of the model. It seamlessly alters the community and life ecosystem of the students and places them on a more successful track where success is not only measured by the impact on the lives of the students themselves but also the lives that the students touch as they become stewards and pillars of their communities, networks and families. I know many alumni who actively give back to their communities with a very familiar sense of purpose and accountability because at one point we were on the receiving end of it for so many years during our Crossroads high school experience and even beyond.