New Yorkers Pitch In To Help Homeless Teen Who Beat The Odds Pay For College

Brianna Watts was worried about paying for college but thanks to news coverage, gracious New Yorkers have sent in donations to help cover school costs.

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| May 16 2019,

8:49 pm

Watts overcame a number of different struggles on her way to academic success. Her mother battled a drug addiction and spent stints in prison. As she worked her way through high school, her fellow students had no idea that she was living out of a homeless shelter. 

Watts attends Bronxwood Preparatory Academy High School and recently decided to go to Delaware State University after getting acceptance letters from Virginia State University, University of Albany, Alfred State College, Monroe College, Goldey-Beacom College, SUNY Morrisville, SUNY Plattsburgh, Adelphi University, Hunter College, Lehman College and John Jay College.


“I know there people worse than me who didn’t have a place to sleep or food to eat, and I still had that even though I was in a shelter,” she told CBS News. “I tried not to let my circumstance define me, who I was as a person. I went from getting 75s and 65s my ninth grade year to getting 90s my 10th grade year.”

She was initially concerned about how she would cover tuition at Delaware State, which will cost more than $18,000 a year. 

“I’m going to college no matter what, I don’t care how much I have to borrow,” she said.

“We’ve been through some things. Life has happened. I never sugar-coated it with her. We had an adventure that we accomplished to together,” her mother Bridgette Gibbs told The Daily News.

“We’re going to make it happen. If we have to sell lemonade on the corner, we’re going to make it happen. Car washes, bake sales. We’re willing to push that envelope as far as it will go.”

Thankfully, New York residents saw her story in the paper and many people offered to help Watts cover the cost of attendance.

Clifford James, the successful owner of a number of funeral homes across the city, donated to Watts' cause because he endured a similar struggle. At one point in life, he was homeless and struggled to put himself through school. An anonymous investment firm CEO also donated to Watts.


“I think the fact that college isn’t accessible for all, that it’s not out-and-out free for someone like Brianna, is a terrible condemnation of education in our country. But we can’t be held back by that, we are just going to overcome it," said Christine Quinn, a local politician who runs Women In Need, the housing center where Watts and her mother live.

“Getting into one college is something to have a celebration about,” Quinn told The Daily News. “Getting into 12 is something where you have a parade or band. She’ll get to go. If I have to call the president of the college and shame them, she’ll go. She’s a shining example of what you can accomplish if you believe in yourself and ask for help.”

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