Snapshot: Tremaine Wills
Image above: Tremaine Wills earned an academic scholarship to Hampton University, and she has returned to school to work on her Masters in Business Administration while working as a co-op at NASA Langley. Photo credit: NASA/Sean Smith
By: Jim Hodges
Tremaine Wills' energy level is as high as her motivation, but that
motivation really accelerated when she began to slow down.
She was junior, and a distance runner with the Warwick High School track
team when she strained a hamstring in a championship meet.
"From there, my whole mental attitude toward the sport started to
change," said Wills, who works as a co-op student in procurement at NASA Langley.
"I wasn't as great as I used to be, and it definitely took a toll on me."
She healed, but her times in the 800-meter run didn't, and it became
time to take stock of her future.
"After trying to recover and not being able to perform the way I had,
after seeing my times get slower and slower and I wasn't able to compete the
way I had, and after being in the back of the pack instead of at the front, I
thought, 'OK, time for Plan B,' " she said.
It involved an understanding that a student-athlete was, first of all, a
student. The student portion of her life was invested in the challenging
International Baccalaureate program at Warwick, which opened her eyes
after she took early childhood success for granted.
"When I was in middle school, I would maybe see one B on a report card
in a year," Wills said. "When I was in the IB program, I started seeing Cs on
papers and that forced me to think harder, to expand my mind and to
expect more of myself. It made me understand that there's more to school than
just learning for a test. IB taught me to acquire concepts and keep them, and
not just to throw them away when the test was over."
At Warwick, she accumulated advance placement credits and enough
knowledge to score 1,390 on the reading and math portions of the Scholastic
Aptitude Test. Wills also was student government president and was voted "most
It's the sort of resume that opens college doors.
"It was a blessing, really, especially because I wasn't performing at
the level I used to and I wasn't sure I would be able to get an athletic
scholarship," Wills said. "And college tuition is not cheap."
Motivation came from within but not completely.
"I had tried to drop out of IB so many times, but my mother wouldn't let
me," Wills said. "I definitely had some strong motivation at home to do
well in school. My mother wouldn't accept average because she did not think I
"That made me understand that I needed to require more from myself."
Also, she admitted, "it felt good just to make her proud. (Motivation)
definitely needs to start from home, and a lot of people don't get that
and that's maybe why they develop an alternative motivating force."
She earned an academic scholarship from Hampton University, from which
she earned a degree in business administration. While at Langley, she is
continuing on in graduate work toward her MBA.
"I think I want to focus on finance, but I'm not sure yet," she said. "I
think it would help me out in working with some of the contracts I'm
working on (in Langley's procurement office). I think I want to take some
courses in business law as well."
Wills still runs along Chesapeake Avenue in Hampton for exercise. Even
while working fulltime at Langley and carrying a fulltime academic load, she
finds time to volunteer as a coach with a track club she competed with in her
Perhaps most important, though, is her work with a young woman who is
about to graduate from Bethel High School. The woman is a student at the
Communities in Schools Performing Learning Center, in a dropout
"Her mom died," said Wills, whose ordinarily bubbly manner now turned
serious. "She says I remind her of her mom. We usually have lunch on
Wednesdays and talk about whatever she wants to talk about. To hear her
talk about finishing school makes meglad that I can make a difference."
And it makes Wills understand what she has had.
"Fortunately I've been blessed to have a really strong background where
I didn't have to experience some of the things that other people have gone
through," she said. "I've had a lot of support, and some people don't
have that and it hinders their performance. Just having a really strong,
motivating family, I've been lucky to have people who are building
instead of shutting down your dreams."
That sensitivity occasionally makes it hard to understand the world as
"I think I'm a sensitive person," said Wills. "I believe in the golden
rule. I see tragedy, and I don't like seeing people hurt. Sometimes I think we live
in a broken world and I'd like to put a band-aid on it.
"I know I can't do everything, but I'd like to do what I can."
No matter how much energy it takes.
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