Northern Michigan: Bill Schramm, 26, doesn’t mince words about his tumultuous childhood that consisted of moving in and out of shelters with his mother and, for a time, resorting to homelessness and breaking the law. He didn’t exactly embrace help given to him along the way, either—“I was a rebellious kid because of my anger … I rebelled against the system”—though today he’s living independently, raising his 2-year-old son Liam, and operating his own business as well as managing a downstate restaurant. Schramm credits Child and Family Services of Northwestern Michigan with his success, and as the nonprofit celebrates its 75th year—launched during the Great Depression—we figured what better way to acknowledge this important organization than by sharing Schramm’s story.
You grew up in Ludington and lived for a while in foster homes in Northern Michigan. How did Child and Family Services help turn things around for you?
One of the big things was connecting me with the Michigan Youth Opportunities Initiative. That’s by far one of the best things they do there. I learned a lot of life skills I wouldn’t normally have been able to learn. But, I didn’t utilize those skills and resources right away … until I was out of foster care. Also, the second caseworker I had, she actually invested herself in my life. She was amazing. I guess it’s not just one thing, though. It took a lot of people.
You have a mentor, local radio personality Ron Jolly, who has helped you significantly through the years. How so?
How hasn’t he helped me would be a better question. We have talked about every single aspect of my life. Everything from the good and great stuff to the bad and horrible stuff. He’s been a dad to me. And that is something I never had. We have 100 percent openness. Sometimes what I say makes him happy; sometimes he gives me constructive criticism. We talk through business decisions, jobs … Ron has helped coach me along with my business [a DJ company based in Lansing]. I think he’s proud with where I am with it.
You’ve come a long way …
Yeah, to go from being a thief, a druggie, to a fairly model citizen with full-custody of my child. It’s a big change. I’ve spoken with people all around the country [about turning his life around] and that all comes from the resources Child and Family Services gave me and connected me to. It’s one of the most important resources for the community. They are dealing with the demographic—individuals in foster care—in the United States with the lowest success rate. It’s astonishing how few foster youth graduate high school, and how many foster youth are in jail.
Learn more about Child and Family Services of Northern Michigan’s work at cfsnwmi.org.