Former Homeless Teen Graduates From College and Creates Scholarship for Others Like Him

Jamaican immigrant Orayne Williams was dealt a bad hand. As a child, he was abandoned by his parents and left to fend for himself on the streets of Brooklyn. The odds of the homeless teen achieving much in life were slim. But what are odds to a man who believed that he could escape hell through education.

Williams ferociously attacked his course work, waking up at 5:30 a.m. and staying after school to study. His hard work paid off; he became his high school’s valedictorian and earned a college scholarship.

Williams’ passions for education continued at John Jay College, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English and attained a 3.7 grade point average.

After graduating, Williams took a job at the Women in Need shelter in East Harlem, which helps families find homes of their own. In addition to his self-less work at the shelter, he runs a nonprofit called Progressive People’s Movement.

Williams’ organization aims to provide supplies and scholarships for New York’s homeless students. Former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn estimates that there are 12,000 children aged 5 years old and under living in shelters.

Williams’ focus is to let these kids know that his organization is here for them. When looking back on his own experience, he recognizes that his life might look entirely different without the help of others.

The Progressive People’s Movement will be holding a fundraiser on July 22nd at Lucky Jacks’s Bar in Manhattan.