By Shawn Chitnis

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – A graduate of Pickens Technical College has seen his life change dramatically in the year since the school won a national competition by building him a wheelchair ramp at his home. The school also received money to update equipment at the school but now has a new challenge for the community.

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“It was kind of like getting your driver’s license for the first time,” Noah Williams explained about the ramp installed at his home in Strausburg last March.

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Since that day, he has been in and out of surgery because he was hit in another accident and had complications with his back. Williams says he hopes to be back to full strength in three months and has seen improvements in his mental health along the way.

“It’s been rough on and off,” Williams said. “I’ve gotten to very low point myself where I’ve almost taken my life because of the situation I’m in.”

Noah Williams (credit: CBS)

He has learned quickly the difficulty of a disability and the toll it can take on someone. He points out that some in his situation do not get past six months because they take their own life. But each of these setbacks have not kept him from remaining positive about his future.

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“It was a big accomplishment on our part to get that,” he said. “By winning, it was good to feel like I gave something back to the people who helped me out.”

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Williams was used to helping others and has learned to appreciate the help he now gets from family and friends. He showed CBS4 the new equipment and computer the school bought with the money from the Weld It Forward competition sponsored by ESAB, an industrial equipment company. The school now has three news machines for welding and a computer that improves the ability of one of their cutting machines.

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“It’s kind of a struggle to get into the bathroom, I need two people to help me,” Williams said. “I can’t do anything in my bathroom without any help.”

(credit: Noah Williams)

While the ramp was a major improvement at home, he still faces other challenges each day. He may be able to enter and exit the house on his own but needs his parents to get him in and out of the bathroom. Williams explained that his parents have to get him on the bed, then onto an office chair, before he can get into the bathroom.

“It’s kind of crappy having your parents help you shower at 19 years old,” Williams added.

So students and staff are now trying to raise $5,000 to $7,000 to completely remodel his bathroom. They will weld items at the school’s shop for sale and host a barbecue on April 13.

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“I can’t be more grateful for the help I get from everybody and the support I’ve gotten from the community, it’s just incredible,” he said.

Williams may have delayed his dream but he remains focused on the goal of becoming an instructor at Pickens so he can continue to give back to his community and help make improvements in the welding field for people with disabilities.

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“Help out as much as I’ve been helped out because I feel like that’s kind of my duty to give back by teaching,” he said.

Shawn Chitnis