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Khadija Williams: From the Streets to Harvard


Life may sometimes seem difficult, but we press on, knowing that the challenges we face are only for a time. And so, we look forward in hope, walking tirelessly with courage on the path of purpose, with our eyes, focused on the laurel on the hills.

This indeed is the testimony of Khadijah Williams, a once homeless teenager from California.

Khadijah Williams has lived through many challenges, but with each, she has grown in strength, faith and wisdom. From age 6, she began moving from one shelter to the other with her mother and younger sister; some days, when they are fortunate, they find a place to lay their heads in the Union Rescue Mission for the homeless. Other times, they are forced to sleep at bus stations or on the streets.

Difficult as it is, Khadijah practices to make the most of every situation. She would stay awake each night studying and solving math problems. She never considered her circumstance to be an excuse to live below her dreams and aspirations.

In 12 years, she attended 12 different schools, but in all, she remained determined, making persistent efforts to stay ahead of her peers. Every day, she spent hours at the Los Angeles Public Library.

“It changed my life,” she says. “The library gave me some control over some aspect of my life. Even though I couldn’t really control where I would live or anything, I could control how much I wanted to learn.”

Khadija Williams

The young woman understood that education was her only ticket to a better life and so she pursued it with determination and courage.  During her sophomore year in high school, she took the decision to pay whatever price she had to, to get a good education. She would wake up every morning at 4:30 a.m, to catch a bus from Los Angeles’ Skid Row to Jefferson High, which was about two hours away.

Who wouldn’t want to escape that kind of life in Skid Row or in the shelters to come to this? That’s what I focused on.” She explains

Khadijah eventually graduated from Jefferson High with honors and landed a spot at the prestigious Harvard University, where she has settled in just fine and continues to push with determination and courage in the path of her purpose.

It’s just so different from what I’m used to. [In] Skid Row, you kind of feel stuck because everything’s just so squished together,” she says. “Here, everything’s so open. The air is so fresh and clean and clear.”

The young woman of focus believes that nothing is impossible and that anyone can achieve great things if they set their minds to it.

To any person, homeless or otherwise, who feels like they don’t like the situation they’re in and feels like they can’t do anything about it, they can,” she says. “For a while, that’s all I had—the belief that I could do it. All you need is that belief because you can. I did it.”

Quotes taken from

Lovelyn Okafor
Lovelyn Okafor
Lovelyn Okafor is a Journalist/Writer, Poet, Lawyer and God-Lover. She enjoys a good read and sees everyday as an opportunity to live and enjoy her calling whilst working towards perfecting it. She believes that someday soon, Africa will reach her full potential as the light-bearer of the world. You can find her on Twitter: @lovelyn_o

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