Noni Williams grew up admiring the community members and peers she had seen picked as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Omahans (TOYO) each year.

Williams would watch as the Omaha Junior Chamber of Commerce, also known as the Omaha Jaycees, recognized young professionals for their commitment to improving the community through acts of kindness while excelling in their professional careers. She knew one day that would be her, it was just a matter of when.

In 2024, that dream came true when Williams was named to the 90th class of TOYO and the 2024 Outstanding Young Omahan of the Year after being nominated by her former mentor Shonna Dorsey, executive director for the Nebraska Tech Collaborative and executive director for internNE.

“I nominated Noni due to her exceptional commitment to empowering the future generation of tech professionals in Nebraska, coupled with her dedication to diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Dorsey. “Noni’s efforts bridge the gap between education and industry, providing invaluable opportunities for aspiring tech talent while championing diversity and inclusivity within not only the tech community, but our community as a whole.”

From refurbishing donated computers for club sites at the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Midlands to serving as a math tutor at the Boys & Girls Club of Council Bluffs and the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO), Williams’s work has been rooted in bettering the community since before 2000.

However, her love of math as a career and a tool for social engagement was sparked long before then when her mom brought home math textbooks from the library.

“I was 5 years old teaching myself and my siblings algebra from these old, withdrawn textbooks,” said Williams. “Eventually, my mom would ground me from teaching because she found the report cards I wrote for my siblings, and they had some not-so-nice things in them. I could have used some more grace as a teacher, but since then I have loved learning and teaching.”

Still, her mom would become her biggest inspiration for her path into the science, technology, engineering and math field.

“She always gave us the tools and language to explore the world around us, to be critical and to ask questions, but to do so in a playful way,” said Williams. “She taught me that playful exploration of math and science. I always felt there was a place for me in that space because my mom embodied that.”

Soon, Williams would fall further in love with math when she attended Duchesne Academy, a college-preparatory high school in Omaha.

“I was on the mathletes at Duchesne,” said Williams. “I have always wanted to engage in math in a way that felt fun, so the competitive aspect was the fun for me.”

Williams would go on to earn her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics from UNO. Today, she is a senior cloud data engineer at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska (BCBSNE).

Some of her BCBSNE coworkers joined her at the 90th Annual TOYO Award Banquet. During the ceremony, the Omaha Jaycees announced the winner of the Distinguished Service Award, which comes with the honor of choosing an organization to donate to. Williams was this year’s winner and is currently working with the Jaycees to direct the donation.

Looking forward, Williams hopes to have an installation at an Omaha gallery that features the intersection of poetry and STEM.

“My long-term vision for Omaha is innovative, intentional and equitable expansion,” Williams said in her speech. “I hope to continue to add to that through my passions for making everyone I meet into a math person. Beyond application, I hope for you to find pieces of the universe worth exploring. I hope you engage in a critical analysis of the world around you and then default to action. I hope you find language for the phenomena that excite you. I hope you share it joyfully with the people around you.”

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