ORLANDO, Fla. – He was given a second chance at life, and because of that, Justin Williams believes it's his responsibility now more than ever to give back and be a blessing to others daily.
Williams is a cancer survivor. He prides himself on being trailblazer for what's right, a drum major for teen success, and an advocate for mentorship.
He currently serves as the general manager of the four-star diamond Grand Bohemian Hotel in downtown Orlando. He's one of the only African-Americans in his role in the hotel industry in Central Florida.
As a proud husband and a father of five children, Williams prides himself on being an advocate for teen success while mentoring at-risk youth. He's on the board of directors for the Downtown Orlando Partnership, Orlando Regional Chamber, Central Florida Hotel and Lodging Association and MAN UP Mentoring. He's also actively involved and sits on the Central Florida Marriott Business Council.
"It is important that I give back to ensure our future is one that we can be proud of. I have a great mother that worked very hard for me to have everything needed to accomplish success," said Williams.
"I did not have the same benefit that my children had of a present father. I want to make sure that our youth have every opportunity for greatness and I hope to be a small beacon of light on their journey."
Williams spoke especially highly of the MAN UP Mentoring program. He's an active volunteer and board member for the organization and strongly commends its efforts in keeping kids on track.
"MAN UP Mentoring, Inc. strives to continually improve the quality of life for at-risk youth by providing educational, mentoring and social services that will equip them to lead inspiring lives," he said.
"The values of the organization that was started by Christopher Wallace and his sister, Samantha Wallace, are to connect, serve, lead and empower the youth.
Williams says he connects with the organization's values and even helps it host events.
His hotel has partnered with MAN UP Mentoring for two years to host the Kings and Queens Breakfast. It's a breakfast aimed at connecting at-risk youth to mentors and positive influencers in the community, while allowing them to partake in a four-course meal.
Williams said his childhood shaped him into the man he is today. He wants to remind kids that anything is possible, no matter their circumstances.
"When you feel down, plot and plan your success. When faced with challenges, plot and plan out what’s next in the journey. When you're told 'you can’t,' 'you will never,' 'you’re not good enough,' take that negativity as fuel to make it happen," Williams said.
"And lastly, find a good mentor, someone that has the makeup of what you want to be."
Williams said moving to Orlando was a bit of a transition, though it fueled his passion to work with at-risk youth even more. He grew up in College Park, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta.
"When I moved out of Georgia, I realized that Atlanta did not reflect the rest of the country, and that’s when I knew I wanted the same feeling of greatness that I felt in my city to spread around our country. And for me, that starts by giving back to the youth right here in Orlando," said Williams.
He said besides relocating or Orlando, he's faced other hardships.
Williams was diagnosed in 2012 with Stage 4 cancer in his liver, lungs and lymph nodes in his abdomen. He spent a year in treatment and underwent liver resection surgery. He said fighting cancer was a reminder that he could overcome anything.
"When you are so close to death and you are given an opportunity to survive it, you see things in a whole different light. My journey with cancer made me a better husband, father, son and executive," he said.
"I was given a second chance at life, and with that comes great responsibility."