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Making a difference with actions

By many accounts, Edward Williams is a man of few words. But he makes up for it through his actions.

He is a youth advocate in the court system.

He is "senior" member of 100 Mighty Men, an original member of the Stop the Violence Coalition and a mentor with the Youth Planning Council -- all community-based organizations that focus on improving communities and encouraging inner-city youth, especially black males, to make positive changes in their lives.

And this summer, he earned his GED -- at age 82.

"I always have been ambitious," he said.

Williams came from humble beginnings in his hometown of Monticello, Fla., leaving school in the ninth grade to get a job because the family was short on money.

Years later, he and a friend -- who owned a car -- decided to travel to California. They made stops on the way in Newark, N.J., New York City, Connecticut and Boston, working long enough to make enough money to move to the next city or town.

By the time they made it to Buffalo in 1958, they had run out of gas and money.

Eventually, he found maintenance and farm work picking crops for $1.25 an hour before landing a job making $5 an hour at a Vulcan Street foam rubber company in 1963.

The lifetime of hard work didn't stop Williams, at age 50, from starting night school at Bennett High School. After retirement in 1988 from the rubber company, he attended school in the daytime until a teacher suggested he check out the Adult Learning Center on Virginia Street. That's where the octogenarian received his GED certificate in June.

And he's not finished yet. He's going back to school next month at the Adult Learning Center for computer training.

"I want to be a computer whiz. I like learning," Williams said.

His friend Edward Wiley, also a Florida native, is the president of 100 Mighty Men on Jefferson Avenue.

"He's just a nice guy all around. I can call on him for anything," Wiley said.

As part of their work with inner-city youth, the pair is routinely called upon -- day or night -- to intervene in matters such as a gang-related murder in the neighborhood or to rescue someone from a crack house.

Rudolphus Boans Jr., a founding member of Stop the Violence Coalition and 100 Mighty Men, has known Williams at least 10 years, including their time together as court advocates for youth through 100 Mighty Men.

"If there's a young man or woman that deserves a chance, we'll talk to the judge to see if he will allow the kid to be a part of our program and we report back to the court," Boans said of the work he does with Williams.

As for reaching California, Williams and that friend never made it, but he has no regrets. Working with young people in Buffalo is one of the accomplishments he's most proud of.

"When I talk to kids, I talk to them like I've been knowing them all my life," he said. "I'm proud when I can sit down with the kids, and they listen to me. I feel like I make a difference."

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