Once she got clean, despite never having finished high school, Brown enrolled in community college. It took her five and a half years to get through a two-year program while working full-time, and another two years to finish her BA. Brown then applied to five law schools and anxiously waited for the responses. The first four were rejections. "I thought all my dreams would go up in smoke," she recalls. "But I opened that last letter from the University of San Francisco, and girl, not only did they accept me, they gave me money."
Defying all expectations, Brown graduated from law school this past spring. What she didn't know until she heard her name read out is that the faculty had voted to give her the school's highest honor for outstanding scholarship, activities, and character.
"It was a wonderful feeling," Brown says. "Most of my life, people hated to see me coming, 'cause I'm gonna beg for some money, I'm gonna steal something, I've got some angle. So for people to actually vote on me and say, 'We like her. We like what she stands for'—that was a complete turnaround for me."