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When Chris was living on the street and struggling to make ends meet, a man took a chance on him and gave him an internship at a brokerage firm. Fifteen years ago, Chris gave the same opportunity to a young woman from Chicago. Oprah tracked her down and she's here today to surprise her mentor!

The youngest of 12 siblings, Niyokie grew up on the West Side of Chicago. She says her community was drug-infested and there was a high rate of teen pregnancy, but she stayed in school, studied hard and landed an internship with Chris when she was a junior in high school. After completing a two-year internship, Chris surprised Niyokie with a college scholarship!

Niyokie enrolled at the University of Chicago and was the first—and only—one of her 12 siblings to graduate from a four-year university. "The most important thing that Christopher Gardner taught me: Education is a way out," she says.

Currently, Niyokie works at a global financial institution and is the mother of two little girls. She's here today to thank Chris for giving her the chance to pursue her dreams.

"You afforded me the opportunity to see an entirely different world," she tells Chris. "I thank you for giving this young African-American girl from the West Side of Chicago an opportunity. I'm not certain if I would have been able to graduate from college if it had not been for your emotional and financial support."
FROM: Homeless to Hollywood: Will Smith and the Real Chris Gardner
Published on November 22, 2006