Apopka firefighter works his way from poverty to a shot at becoming the next American Idol

APOPKA, Fla. — A local man who’s faced hardship since he was a child, and has dedicated his life to helping others, will be center-stage this weekend in hopes of becoming the next American Idol.

Jeremias Williams is a 23-year-old Apopka Firefighter.

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He grew up the youngest of nine children in a small home on a quiet street.

“I grew up with 5 brothers and 3 sisters,” Williams recalls. “My nephews live with me as well, so my house never had less than 12, 13 people.”

Williams said they frequently went without power and air conditioning.

“I actually never had a bed,” WIlliams says.

Despite those circumstances, Williams persevered, becoming the first in his family to graduate high school, and after that, continued on through firefighter and EMT school.

“The hurdle initially was, mentally I didn’t really believe I could,” Williams says. “Once I got those people in my life to help me and to show me that I could, then other things started to come into pass...I was like wow, the sky’s the limit.”

Williams says the city of Apopka adopted him.

“They brought me in and helped me and allowed me to see a different side of the world that I didn’t see before.”

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Those that showed him this new world quickly noticed one of his old talents.

“I always loved to sing.”

Lieutenant Jerold Maynard was the first to hear Jeremias singing around the firehouse.

“He heard me sing and was like, ‘Why are you here?’, Williams says. “He’s like, you need to do something with that.”

A couple of years later, Williams did, performing for Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan, and now, he’ll perform on Sunday’s episode of American Idol.

“It was absolutely unbelievable. I’m a kid from Plymouth, Florida, who grew up in poverty. That stuff you only see on TV...It’s something that you don’t think that’s tangible.”

But thanks to a newfound belief, Jeremias Williams made it real.

“I was bathing in a bucket several years ago, and now I have my own home. I have a career...If you’d asked me if you’d have told me that this would happen a few years ago, I would tell you you’re crazy.”

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Jeremias is hosting a watch party Sunday with his family and fellow firefighters.

American Idol airs at 8 p.m Sunday on Channel 9.