M e r c u r y N e w s c o m   |   San Jose Mercury News
Holiday Wish Book
Reaching up 

Tamika Williams, 18, looks to a successful future, thanks to the support of Jeremiah's Promise, a non-profit organization which offers transitional living space as well as educational support and mentoring to former foster children.

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By MELINDA SACKS / Special to the Mercury News

tamika Williams was just 10 years old when her mother ran off with a boyfriend, leaving Tamika and her brother in the hands of the foster care system.

Today, the 18-year-old college student and basketball player is on her way to success with a scholarship, a job and big plans for her future.

In spite of the hard times she has endured, Williams says she considers herself lucky. With the loving care of families from her church, and the ongoing support of Jeremiah's Promise, a Christian-based non-profit organization dedicated to helping teens who have aged out of the foster care system, she is confident about what lies ahead.

Tamika at practice
Tamika laughs with teammates during basketball practice at Mission College, where she is a freshman.

(Susanna Frohman / Mercury News)

"When you turn 18, you leave your foster care home, but you aren't ready to be on your own,'' says Williams, a slender young woman who moves with an athlete's grace. "Jeremiah's Promise gives you food, a place to live, counseling, tutoring, whatever you need so you can become independent.''

For now, Williams shares a Palo Alto house with four other girls and a house manager. She walks to her job at Goodwill, and takes a 90-minute bus ride to Mission College in San Jose, where she is a freshman and member of the basketball team. From 7 a.m. until late into the evening, she is on the go, but she has no complaints.

"This program has changed my life,'' she says. "The best thing is the way people have handled things in the house. We all come from different backgrounds, but everyone is appreciated for who they are.''

Jeremiah's Promise, based in Palo Alto, offers housing, educational services, life-skill training and job assistance, all aimed at successfully launching teens into adulthood. Williams says her tutor has not only helped her manage test anxiety, but has also been a mentor, encouraging Williams to find a four-year college to which she can transfer and to explore various career options.

Because she is saving her money to become self-supporting, Williams doesn't buy anything for herself. She used her small savings account to buy books for school, so gift cards for clothes and other basics ($25 each) would be a treat, she says. Movie rental cards ($10 each) would provide rare but welcome respite from her hectic schedule.

"I am working to be able to transfer to a historically black college,'' says Williams. ""I hope to get a basketball scholarship. I hope to have a family one day, and be very successful and come back and volunteer for Jeremiah's Promise.''

For more information on Jeremiah's Promise, go to www.jeremiahspromise.org.

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