Manhattanville Reid Castle In the Spring

Manhattanville Sophomore Works to Help At-Risk Youth Find Their Way

Orayne and his Executive Board on the Manhattanville campus

Orayne Williams could have been another statistic. He could have let his circumstances define him, stealing his potential. Instead, he focused not on the fact that he was living alone in a shelter in Brooklyn, but on his grades and his determination to go to college when he graduated. A year later, Williams is getting ready for his sophomore year at Manhattanville College. He finished his freshman year with a 3.6 GPA, but more importantly with a group of friends that he can depend on when things become too much.

Williams' transition to college life wasn't the easiest. There were stereotypes to defeat and new living arrangements. There was life away from Brooklyn where his friends and support system were, but instead of giving in to the pressure, he owned it, making his own way. In his freshmen year, Williams started a non-profit organization, Progressive People Movement (PPM), to help at-risk youth. The organization started in November 2010, aims to "provide an outlet for at risk youth through various services which they do not have easy access to or which is not being provided to them in abundance. The goal of the mission is to create self dependent youth who are equipped to face the perils of life."

The idea, Williams said, came to him in a dream. He dreamt that he was the president of a non-profit organization and after some discussion with his friends, Williams decided to make his dream a reality. It wasn't easy, either. It took a lot of hard work and planning, starting with coming up with a business outline and a mission. Williams put together an executive board and a team of advisors and together they started looking at other non-profits and noticing what was lacking in service, instead of the areas that were already taken care of.

One thing Williams knew was that PPM was going to be a youth-based organization, with a young Board leading its way.

"The executive board is made up of young people and one alumni," Williams, founder and CEO of Progressive People Movement, said. "We want PPM to maintain young people working with young people and servicing young people. PPM will serve as the organization that eliminates the notion that young people are part of the problem. We are part of the solution. Young people working with young people is a powerful concept."

And the Board is definitely young; many of the students are sophomores or juniors at Manhattanville. They are students working to help other students get to where they are. With Manhattanville's dedication to social justice and community service it seems a good place for this program to originate with a strong group of students, who are dedicated to its success.

This summer, PPM started its Brooklyn chapter, where Williams always saw the organization running out of, not only because it's where he considers home, but because he felt Brooklyn was the place it would be most successful. This fall PPM will work on getting the Manhattanville chapter up and running.

"My first thought was I want to do it in Brooklyn, where I am from and where my friends are and my resources are," Williams said. "The place where it would be most successful was in Brooklyn. It was always in my mind and my goal to start it in Brooklyn where there are a lot of people who can use the resources and the services."

While PPM is just starting out, hosting workshops to train the executive board, working on a few community projects in the Brooklyn-area, the support for the program has been overwhelming.

"It's been amazing, a lot of support and a lot of people donating different materials and financial donations and support," Williams said. "There is no way I can give up on it. So many people are loving it from the Facebook page to my email, from all over. They love the idea; they love the story behind it. I don't think people will ever let it die. That's how strong the support for PPM is and it's just growing even more."

Williams is looking forward to coming back to Manhattanville and working on the PPM chapter. He hopes once it starts at Manhattanville they can make connections to other local campuses and get PPM moving in a positive direction.

"PPM is an amazing movement, with the right support behind it, it will do great things and hopefully in the future, five years from now, it will be nation-wide," Williams said." I will work on that goal until I achieve it. PPM is like a child, you have to nurture it, and I look forward to when it really blows up big and is bringing good to the community."