By MELINDA SACKS /
Special to the Mercury News
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
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
Tamika laughs with teammates during basketball practice at Mission
College, where she is a freshman.
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
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
each) would be a treat, she says. Movie rental cards ($10
each) would provide rare but welcome respite from her hectic
"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.''
more information on Jeremiah's
Promise, go to
Your Wish Book Donation ]