If you think your time in college was tough, wait until you hear the story of Joshua Williams.
Joshua Williams graduates from Florida’s Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach this Saturday with a Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, and has the honor of being the first student at that particular university to start his own scholarship. But what makes these accomplishments even more extraordinary is the fact that he spents the first three years of college without a place to call home.
The 23-year-old opened up to the Daytona Beach News-Journal about how he went from being a homeless student to one of the top graduates from his year. Williams was raised in Miami by his aunt where violence from the streets was an everyday occurence — his young brother, who was only 16 at the time, was found murdered in a lake in 2011.
Through a lot of hard work and dedication, in addition to some help he received from a teacher, Williams was accepted into Bethune-Cookman University. But that was only the start of his worries. Each semester, Williams had to somehow figure out how to come up with $10,000 for tuition, room, and board. To help keep costs low, he lied and told the university he was living off campus when in reality he had no place to stay.
“I knew I was homeless, but I said to myself I’d rather be in Daytona homeless trying to go to school than ever go back to Miami,” he told the News-Journal.
Williams spent the next two years of college couch surfing and using friend’s meal cards just to feed himself. He had to rely on notes he took in class because he couldn’t afford to purchase textbooks. “I was always worried about my next move — Where would I stay? How long can I stay here? When is my family going to send me money?
In his junior year at Bethune-Cookman University, Williams finally revealed that he was homeless during a school assembly and an advisor stepped up to help get him a place in residence hall. In his senior year at the university, Williams was awarded the title of Mr. Bethune-Cookman University which made him a brand ambassador for the school and also guaranteed his room and board for his senior year.
Williams created the Keeper of Light book scholarship to help provide needy students with textbooks. So far, he has raised $2,750 for the cause.