About the Founder

Jerome Powell Williams - Founder REACH Center

Since I first decided to pursue my dream of helping at-risk youth, I've been asked on several occasions why did I decide to undertake this mission. People ponder on what motivates and drives a person to starting a not-for-profit organization in a profit-driven society. The answer to that question for me is purpose. I'm going to share what that purpose is with my REACH Center family and those people/organizations interested or thinking about supporting REACH, partnering with us or sowing a seed into REACH. Through sharing my story, it is my hope that not only will the intent of this organization become clear, but that you will also understand why REACH is needed and decide to help us in achieving our mission.

I was born on August 31,1985, in King Drew Medical Center in Los Angeles, California. Less than a year after my birth, on the day my sister was born, I was taken away from my mom due to her use of crack cocaine and inability to properly care for us. I was placed into the custody of the Department of Children and Family Services ("DCFS").

According to information made known to me by a social worker I had as a child and also my DCFS records which later came into my possession as an adult, I was moved around several times as an infant, going from one foster home to another until I landed in a loving foster home with an older couple in Compton, California, who would later become my legal guardians. I remained in their care for 5 years until they passed away, month's apart from each other. After their passing I stayed with different members of their family until November 4, 1997, when the niece of my deceased legal guardians would terminate her guardianship over me and leave me at children's court.

During my stay with that family, my mom had lost all of her rights to me and my two younger sisters. We were awarded to the state of California and put up for adoption, although I never got adopted. It was during that time period in my life, after the last guardianship was terminated, at the age of twelve, when past and present experiences and the circumstances and conditions by which I was surrounded would begin to negatively influence me and ultimately make me susceptible to my environment.

I was staying in a foster home in Inglewood, California, with an older lady who made it clear that I was just a paycheck to her. I felt alone in the world. I had no relationship with my mom and was unaware of her whereabouts. I never met my dad and at that time had no knowledge of any family except my two younger sisters who were in a different foster home. I felt unloved, unwanted and misunderstood. I began to hang out with the wrong crowd. I started smoking weed, drinking alcohol and ditching school. I also began running away and engaging in criminal activity. I developed a "me against the world" mentality. By the age of thirteen I would be arrested and charged with a misdemeanor offense and was sent to juvenile hall for a short stay. During that time, I also had a number of suspensions from school. I was expelled from the Los Angeles school district when I was fourteen and my behavior was getting worse. It became difficult to place me in a foster home because my social worker couldn't find foster parents that would take me in. Consequently, I started staying in group homes, and would also be housed at Maclaren Hall a number of times and facilities alike.

At the age of fifteen I began to gravitate toward gang life, mostly all the teenagers I knew were involved in that lifestyle, but that wasn't the reason I was drawn into that life. I had a yearning to be accepted and an intense longing to be a part of something. My behavior got worse and my outlook on life was that of a young boy lost without guidance. I also had a bad attitude, fast temper and anger issues which would eventually turn into rage. I moved around so much I had to attend continuation schools because I was so far behind on school credits. In fact, from the age of twelve until I was terminated from DCFS at the age of eighteen I didn't stay in any placement longer than 6 months. I had passed through over forty foster homes, group homes, and placements. At the age of seventeen I dropped out of school and became heavily involved in the street life and criminal activity.

When I turned 18, I was terminated from the foster system. I had nowhere to go but the hood. The gang I was a member of became my family. I became so immersed in gang banging that I didn't have an expectancy to live past twenty-one. I was what the youngsters these days' call "turnt up". I was known in the hood and other hood's as being with the business, whatever the business was. While I was living that lifestyle, living in the fast lane, getting fast money and chasing fast females, I thought I was that guy. This is until I was indicted by the feds for armed bank robbery and my world came crashing down on me. Looking back, it probably was the best thing that could have happened for me at that time. When I was apprehended by FBI agents and placed into the custody of the US Marshals I was, in a sense, relieved because at that time there was so much going on in my life and I felt like the walls were closing in on me. At the age of nineteen I was overwhelmed and exceedingly tired. I was mentally, emotionally and physically drained due to what seemed like an eternity of pain and suffering and the unhealthy lifestyle I was living. My imprisonment was truly a blessing in disguise. About halfway through my incarceration, all of the altercations with the COs (correctional officers), fights with other inmates, riots and problems I was bringing on myself got old to me. I wanted to better myself. I began to understand that even though I was physically confined my mind was still free. I stopped serving time and decided to make time serve me, which allowed me an opportunity to ease my mind, body and soul, collect my thoughts, heal the wounds of my past and learn and grow as a man. As a result of my self-rehabilitation through spiritual cultivation, educating myself and applying the knowledge/understanding gained, I went through a transformation. I armed myself with the truth and developed a conscience that empowered me to think beyond the hood mentality which helped me to discover the means to control my pride, humble myself, do away with my anger, resentment and temper, enabling me to reclaim my humanity, reunite with God, find inner peace, though I was surrounded by external chaos and discover my purpose in life. I realized that I may not have been responsible for the person I became but I am responsible for who I am today and what I hope to become. I stopped blaming others for my mistakes and shortcomings and took full responsibility for my actions. In the nine years, eight months and a day I was incarcerated, nearly a decade, I grew considerably as a man and as a person. I was awoken and became fully conscious of my past transgressions, bondage of corruption and self-destructive moves that placed me on a path that ultimately leads to death or prison. It's no doubt in my mind that if I wouldn't have earned that case I would have been killed due to gang violence or would be serving a life sentence. In the summer of 2009 I found myself in solitary confinement again where I was locked down for twenty-three hours a day. I It was during this stint in the hole when the light turned on and I had my aha-moment. I finally got it! I was reading/studying three books, my Bible, "The Purpose Driven Life" by Rick Warren and "Renewing the Mind" by Casey Treat. I began to view the world through new eyes seeing myself in that image of Him who created me. It was during that stint in the hole that I made a conscious decision that "imprisonment" would no longer be an option. I began to see good in everything and in everything there was a lesson or something to be learnt. Previous dreams died with the old me and new dreams were born.

That's when this great vision came to me and I knew at that time exactly why I was on earth. I knew who I was, what I wanted to do and where I was going. The seed was planted and I began to immediately water that seed. My focal point was in a new direction. I arrived at a point in my life in which I was most focused, driven and determined to fulfil my purpose in life while in the pursuit to attain stability, happiness and success. I stopped viewing life as a game, but instead as a journey. I started talking differently, walking differently, I began moving, carrying and conducting myself as a man who knew his true identity and purpose in life. I started eliminating the false information and negative ways I obtained as a youth and conditioning the new me by centering my life on fundamental principles and values, and developing the necessary characteristics and qualities needed to live a purpose-driven life and be a productive member of society. I began to make a difference in the inmates lives around me and changing the environment I was in and I couldn't wait to get out and do the same in the world. I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to change the course of today's youth and prevent them from making the mistakes I made. I knew that I could and I knew exactly how I was going to do it and what was needed. I finally understood that it was not about me... I realized that all I experienced and endured served as preparation for a greater purpose and today I'm walking in that purpose.