Resilient and reliable. That’s how Williamson faculty and coaches describe John Busa, a senior who has excelled in Machine Shop and basketball. It’s also how John speaks of his father, who’s always been by his side, from the seat of a wheelchair.
Growing up with a disabled father and a mother with health issues has challenged John in many ways. At Williamson, he’s found a welcoming and open-minded community that has backed him up as he has strived to achieve his goals and keep a strong connection to his family.
When John was two years old, his father, an accountant and one-time college athlete, was paralyzed in a car accident. He was unable to work, and soon his mother, who had worked her entire life as a barber, also went on disability because of injuries sustained from work and car accidents. John and Maureen Busa raised their two boys with the help of their local parish. They enrolled their kids in Catholic school and took them to Mass every Sunday.
John hoped to follow his brother who attended Catholic high school all four years before joining the Navy. But after his freshman year, John’s parents couldn’t afford his tuition so he switched to the local high school.
John played baseball in high school, but much preferred basketball, even though every year he got cut from the team. Rejection didn’t stop him from staying busy and productive. He got a job with Samaritans at Last, the same agency that sent caregivers to his house to help his parents.
As senior year approached, John considered going to a community college for physical therapy, but decided to apply to Williamson. He had learned about the college from his friend whose older brothers were students there.
When John got accepted to Williamson, he and his parents were thrilled that John would be getting an education at no cost to them, given their financial struggles.
John appreciated the rigorous daily schedule at Williamson: a full day of classes, shop, basketball, and then back in the shop at night to complete projects. Still, the first two years he struggled to keep up with the workload. He found the opportunity, each day, to take respite and recharge by attending chapel and playing basketball.
“Basketball kept me going; it was something to look forward to at the end of the day.”
After such a discouraging experience playing basketball in high school, John was grateful for the support at Williamson. “All the coaches took an interest in me and made me want to get better.”
“When he joined the team, John knew he had a certain skill set that he could bring to the table, and he was willing to work hard,” says Assistant Head Coach Ramar Tate.
“We played to his strengths. He was willing to work on his weaknesses and we helped him to do that. We brought out a different confidence in John,” says Coach Tate. “He became a very reliable player.”
John worked hard to improve his game. The first year he was one of the team’s highest scoring players. He practiced hard over the summer, and was ready to play as a Junior but injured his knee before the season started. His knee healed, but then, during the last ten minutes of the pre-season’s final practice, John took a fall and damaged his ankle. He sat on the bench most games. From the sidelines, he kept his pride in the team and shared in the wins.
“No matter how much he played, his parents were so supportive,” says Coach Tate, who saw John’s father at every home game, cheering on the team.
Before Covid-19 cancellations, John’s father showed up at Wing Nights, a Williamson tradition in which students’ families and friends come to campus for Director of Food Services Tim Burbage’s famous chicken wings. They stroll through campus, see what the students are working on in the shops, and participate in scheduled activities.
John’s family is proud of his achievements in the trades. The summer after his freshman year, John interned with Globus Medical, a medical device company in Audubon, Pennsylvania. The job gave him the personal satisfaction that he was making a difference. There he worked on the machines that manufactured parts that surgeons use to help heal spinal cord injuries and other musculoskeletal disorders.
He was invited back to Globus Medical the next summer, but due to Covid-19, all internships got cancelled. Instead, John worked as a home health aide for Samaritans at Last as he did in high school. Currently, he’s working for Axis Home Care Services, another home care agency. He knows how essential this work is, especially during the pandemic.
Now as a Williamson senior, John looks to his future. He isn’t certain of his exact course, professionally, but his parents, he says, trust his choices. “My parents are really involved in my life. My father’s always around for me. He’s been the best father I could ask for.
“I’ve proved to my parents, to everybody, that I could make it through here, graduate, and do some good.”
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