Social worker helping Franklin middle school students

Published 9:41 am Friday, July 22, 2011

FRANKIN—After years of running an appliance store, Ray Williams was tired of the same old grind.

Ray Williams has worked with at-risk students at J.P. King Middle School since 2000. - Dale Liesch | Tidewater News

That’s why in 2000 he applied for a job with Franklin School-Based Case Management through the Tidewater Youth Services Commission. He’s held that position ever since.

A graduate of Norfolk State University with a degree in social work, Williams had worked with youth in group homes in Portsmouth. Today, he works from an office at J.P. King Middle School.

“I love what I do,” Williams said. “It’s the direct contact with kids. When a kid is successful, I get to see it.”

Williams works with middle school students who are considered at-risk for possibly flunking a grade, failing a core class, inappropriate school behavior, chronic absenteeism, poor grades and in need of support services. Students are referred to Williams through the Franklin Juvenile Court Service Unit and school system.

“We’re more likely to change the behavior of middle school students than high school students,” he said. “Middle school is where students try to find themselves.”

If a student is struggling with grades, Williams helps them with homework after school or at home with help from parents. He also works to reduce absenteeism, including doing home visits.

“I will bring kids to school,” Williams said.

A main goal of the program is to make sure students pass to the next grade level at the end of the school year.

“A lot of kids who get involved in delinquent behavior are those who get behind in school,” Williams said.

During the school year, the 20 students in his case-load participate in group sessions that include discussions and lessons on conflict resolution and Virginia laws.

When school is out, Williams takes students on outings, like to the Virginia Air and Space Museum or a Norfolk Tides game.

“My belief is that the more exposure a child gets to different activities the better the chances he may find the thing he likes and turn him in another direction,” Williams said.

The program receives partial funding from the Franklin Southampton Area United Way, and Executive Director Anne Bryant said Williams is very important to the kids he helps.

“He does an outstanding job with the organization,” she said. “If you become one of Ray’s kids, you’re one of his kids forever.”