Ex-homeless valedictorian who graduated from college sets up scholarship for NYC homeless teens

Abandoned by his family and left homeless and alone on the mean streets of Brooklyn, young Jamaican immigrant Orayne Williams was an unlikely candidate to graduate from high school.

But Williams beat the odds, becoming valedictorian of his class and attending college on a full scholarship after the Daily News shared his inspiring story in 2010.

Six years later, Williams has earned his college diploma and he’s working to fight the growing crisis in the city’s public schools where 82,500 kids are now homeless, up nearly 23% from 67,200 homeless kids in 2011.

The former homeless teen, now 24, is employed as a caseworker at a city shelter and he’s putting together a new scholarship to help homeless students in public schools achieve their dreams.

Much as he has achieved his dreams, against all odds.

“I know what it feels like to be homeless and I know what it feels like to receive help from case managers and social workers,” said Williams, who’s now living alone in an apartment in the South Bronx. “I’ve learned how to navigate the system and I want to help other homeless people move forward.”

Williams works a full-time job at former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s 146-bed Women in Need shelter in East Harlem, where he helps families transition to homes of their own.

Quinn, the group’s president and CEO, met Williams when she was still on the City Council. At the time, he was still a senior at Bedford Academy in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.


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