"Mike Williams was born to a drug-abusing mom and spent the rest of his childhood being shuffled from one Florida foster home to the next — 30 of them in 18 years, the last in Lake County.
Not long after he aged out of the system, he became homeless.
But Williams was savvy enough to find a lifeline, enlisting in a state-funded independent-living program for former foster youths, getting a job and earning a college degree. And now he’s trying to help foster kids navigate the “real world” while they’re still in care so they can avoid the struggles he faced.
On Saturday, Williams, now 27, will lead an all-day interactive seminar in Orlando for 150 foster teens that provides a “society simulation” of what it’s like to have a career, manage finances and navigate adult life.
In “My Jump Start to the Real World,” taking place in a convention hall at the Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld, participants choose an occupation based on the state Department of Education career assessment and are provided a theoretical salary. They then attend five life-skills workshops and develop a monthly budget.
They’ll also learn how to open bank accounts and buy insurance.
“In foster care, you do get the chance to learn about these things, but you don’t have the chance to try them out,” Williams said. “It doesn’t give you much confidence. I want them to leave feeling inspired and having both a goal and a plan to achieve that goal.”
The program already has a waiting list for participants. But Williams, founder of a company called Inspiring Self Success, is hoping advocates for foster kids, potential mentors, life coaches and business leaders will attend to observe and learn how they can play a role in the future. The Orlando event is Williams’ second after launching in Tallahassee in March. Others events are planned elsewhere in the state this year with another round next year."