A former homeless youth has his sights set on becoming Canada’s Smartest Person.
Twenty-five-year-old Joshua Williams has experienced more tough living than many of us will in a lifetime.
He’s gone from being a scholarship-winning athlete and self-taught musician, to living on the streets and becoming a youth worker.
Williams, a program director of the Leduc Boy’s and Girl’s Club, went head-to-head for the title against five other Canadians in last night’s episode of the CBC-TV show, coming out on top.
For those in the dark, the series sees a total of 30 competitors test their intelligence in six categories— linguistic, physical, musical, visual, social and logical — with one contestant in each episode advancing to the final round. During a championship round that airs Sunday, December 18, one of five finalists will take home the title of Canada’s Smartest Person for the year.
According to the Edmonton Journal, Williams was lounging on the couch one day when a commercial for the show came on and he decided to apply.
“It’s not like your typical intelligence show where they ask you questions and it’s more like trivia,” Williams told the publication. “It’s such a wide range of talents that it takes to compete and I felt like I was someone who could do a wide range of things.”
Williams grew up in Edmonton and began playing minor football at seven with the West Edmonton Raiders. After the family relocated to Calgary when he was 12, he continued to excel athletically, winning various scholarships before accepting one at Simon Fraser University.
Williams also progressed musically and taught himself how to play piano, guitar, bass drums and a few other string instruments. He was even accepted to Berklee College of Music in Boston but never attended.
After realizing that life at Simon Fraser wasn’t for him, he dropped out at 18 and returned home to his parents’ to pursue his career in music.
After butting heads with his parents, he found himself on the streets, working three different jobs and sleeping in an abandoned bus.
Williams stored his limited belongings in a locker at work.
His luck began to turn when relatives from Edmonton visited and found him a place in the city with another relative. Williams found a lucrative job in the oil patch but quickly realized that it was not what he wanted to do.
“I sought a job working with children and youth and I’m very fortunate to have come across where I am right now,” he said of his current position that places him as a role model. “I love being in a position to actually influence people in a positive way, share my story and watch people do better.”