GSD Alumni Spotlight Valerie Williams Gaines

photo of Valerie Williams Gaines
Grenada educators constantly strive to prepare each of our students to be successful in both their lives and their careers. To recognize the efforts of some of the outstanding GSD graduates, each month The Communicator will feature a Grenada School District alum who has exemplified our District's commitment to excellence. GSD alumni are found, not only in our area, but in far-flung areas across the globe. Our former students are distinguishing themselves in the workplace and in their commmuities, carrying our small town values of commitment and concern for others.

This month's success journey traces the life of Valerie Williams Gaines, 1985. GHS graduate, and Senior Systems Engineer at Modem Technology Solutions, Inc. in Huntsville, Alabama. She has been a contractor for over 16 years with the Missile Defense Agency, which is the section of the United States Department of Defense responsible for developing a layered defense against ballistic missiles. The element she supports is the Command and Control, Battle Management, and Communications, the integrating element of the Ballistic Missile Defense System.

Growing up in Grenada prepared Valerie for the immense responsibilities that she now shoulders. She states, "To be surrounded by family and friends, as well as educators, who took a true interest in my future is more than anyone could ask for. Everyone knew who you were. Growing up Grenada' taught me to be an individual. Wherever I found myself-- whether the grocery store or the school house-- everyone viewed me as my own person. This provided me with individual confidence to achieve all of my dreams."

Valerie graduated from Mississippi Valley State University with a major in biology and chemistry and received her Master's Degree from Alabama A & M University. She is married to Joseph L Gaines, Engineer at Marshall Space Flight Center National Aeronautics and Space Administration. She has one son, Joseph L Gaines III (Tre'), who is headed off to college at Faulkner State University.

She still has close ties to Mississippi. Her mom and one sister still live in Grenada, Dorothy Jean Peacock Williams and Paula L Williams, respectively, and has one sister in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Pamela D. Williams.

Valerie says, "My childhood afforded me the ability to find joy in the simple and small things of life. Simple happiness! The importance of family is something I hold dear to my heaxt. Grenada is always a place I can call home and come home to ... life is forever changing but the two things that are constant are God and family. I will always have a home in my hea1t - Grenada!" Valerie's career supports a vital operational system that enables the U.S. President, Secretary of Defense, and combatant commanders at strategic, regional and operational levels to systematically plan ballistic missile defense operations, to collectively see the battle develop, and to dynamically manage designated networked sensors and weapons systems to achieve global and regional mission objectives.

Her childhood and education in Grenada provided a solid foundation for her present challenges. "It (Grenada) gave me the confidence to excel and handle change, which is necessary in my present work environment. I remember not being able to get away with anything because everyone knew everyone! Thus, this allowed me to develop the skill of being accountable for my decisions and my actions and to think a little more before making them. Growing up Grenada also taught me the true definition of loyalty, provided me with the forging of deep and lasting friendships, and a well-rounded experience that I will never forget. I take with me daily the lesson of maintaining my connections to people in my life especially those forged in Grenada as I grew from a child into a hardworking citizen of society. These are the treasures of experiences from growing up Grenada that I carry with me daily."

Valerie credits Grenada for molding her character and defines reasons that she loves being from our small town:
1. I've had the same friends since I was a small child; Drifting apart doesn't happen when you've known each other for over 20 years.
2. Huge Support System- When something tragic happens, you feel the love from every single person, and when something great happens, you'll probably be in the newspaper.
3. You learned how to work hard at a very young age. There are no cushy jobs in a small town. If you want money, you have to work at the only businesses you have access to (My grandmothers' cafe). So you spent the majority of your teen years working crappy fast food jobs or doing manual yard work for neighbors. But this made you really appreciate the first job you got that didn't pay minimum wage.
4. You know literally everyone. Which sounds super axmoying, but it actually makes for a pretty friendly living environment.
5. You can see the stars at night. Something you'll always miss once you finally move away.
6. It's super safe. People don't lock their doors at night and kids are allowed to walk across town to a friend's house without supervision.

A former Miss Grenada High, Valerie thinks fondly of her GHS experiences. She remembers especially band, "Best Directors Ever!" and her English teacher Ms. Leslie Ammons, " ... I learned to be punctual, speak loud and slow, sit up straight and pay attention in class. We as students always enjoyed her class and I especially admired the way she carried herself -so professional and elegant."

Taking time from her job obligations, Valerie imparts wisdom to GSD students saying, "Learn something new each and every day. Always be an inspiration to others. Take the time to achieve your goals and then be a mentor and help someone else following the same path. Always be confident and do not allow fear to divert you from achieving your dreams. Love others, serve others, and you will change the world!"