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President & Chief Executive Officer Orchards Children's Services, Southfield, Michigan
A CHAMPION FOR THE CHILDREN
By Donald James
For almost 10 years, Michael Williams has served as president and chief executive officer of Orchards Children's Services, where his primary focus has been to improve and support the overall conditions of children. His work throughout the region is well documented as an advocate, visionary, leader, and ambassador for empowering children and families. "My focus is on the children, and it goes beyond the rhetoric that the children are our future...they are our present," Williams says emphatically. "I want to make sure that we take the responsibility of shaping our children and providing them with everything they will need to succeed."
Over his tenure at OCS, Williams has given leadership to a multiplicity of programs and initiatives that have served more than 5,000 children and families annually in seven Michigan counties. However, with various partnerships and ancillary programs such as baseball, Williams estimates that approximately 8,500 children and families are served each year.
One of OCS's programs that Williams is extremely proud of is Learn 2 Learn, an education partnership initiative that helps children to enhance study skills and learn the value of going to school. "It's important to give our children a good educational foundation because that's something that no one can take away from them," explains Williams. "We work basically with middle school students, teachers, and administrators throughout the community."
Prior to joining OCS, Williams served as president of StarrVista, Inc., a care management organization for youth and their families. He earlier worked as a community developer at Starr Commonwealth, and was an executive director of the Hannah Neil Center. In addition, he once served two terms as the mayor of Albion, Michigan.
A Flint, Michigan native, Williams grew up in an era when people in the community actively mentored and helped raised neighborhood children, even if the children were not theirs. He learned values and discipline from home and the community, but picked up valuable life skills as a star athlete in baseball, basketball and football. After graduating from Flint Northern High School, Williams attended Albion College where he earned a bachelor's degree in political science and history. He subsequently received a master's degree in administration and public policy from Eastern Michigan University. While Williams once had thoughts of becoming an attorney, he saw a greater need and role in helping children succeed in life. Thus, he embarked on a career that has made him a champion for the children.
For Williams, the beat goes on... and so does his passion for empowering children. In addition to his current leadership role with OCS, Williams is actively involved with community and civic organizations that positively impact young people. He is the president of the Association of Accredited Child and Family Agencies (AACFA), and an active member of the National Black Child
Development Institute. Over the years, he has been interviewed by print and electronic media outlets on topics related to child welfare and juvenile delinquency. "I try to be where I need to be to help the children," says the married father of one daughter. "I speak to a lot of youth groups, and serve as a father to the children; that's my job...that's all of our jobs."
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