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The odds were not in Orayne Williams’ favor when his family abandoned him in Brooklyn, New York. Yet the Jamaican immigrant graduated valedictorian of his high school class in 2010 and earned a full college scholarship.

Williams, now a college graduate, is working to help the more than 82,000 homeless children in the city’s public school system, reports The New York Daily News.

Student homelessness is increasing, according to a recent report by the nonpartisan advocacy group Civic Enterprises. During the 2013-14 school year, an estimated 1.3 million students were homeless — a 7 percent increase from the previous year. That estimate, certainly an undercount, is double the homeless student rate seven years earlier. It’s a problem that disproportionately affects students of color and those who identify as LGBT.

Williams, 24, graduated from John Jay College in New York last year. He now works as a caseworker at a city shelter. At the same time, Williams started a nonprofit that is raising money for scholarships to support homeless students.

“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,” Williams told The Daily News. “I’ve learned how to navigate the system and I want to help other homeless people move forward.”

Homeless students face a mountain of obstacles, according to the report. They are chronically absent and are held back in grades. Three out of four homeless grade school students perform below grade level in math and reading. This group of students also struggles with emotional challenges.

Williams told the newspaper that he needed help to succeed. “I want young people to know they don’t have to do it alone,” he added.

His organization is also raising money for school supplies for homeless students and plans to provide tutoring for those headed to college.

SOURCE: New York Daily News | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty, Twitter


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