A single mother of five is displaying #BlackExcellence in the realm of academia and showing that perseverance is key to bringing your dreams to fruition. Despite having the odds stacked against her, 33-year-old Ieshia Champs will receive her law degree in May and her graduation photo has swept the internet.
Champs will graduate Magna Cum Laude from Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law, the news outlet writes. In her viral graduation photo, she proudly stands next to her five children as they hold up signs that bear the words “I helped” and “We did it.” For Champs, the photo serves as a visual representation of overcoming all of the obstacles that were put in her path.
At the age of 7, she was placed in foster care with her siblings; an experience that she says was traumatic for her. “I cried so hard because I missed my familiar surroundings, even though they were horrible,” she told the news outlet. She grew up in the foster care system and stayed in different households and was eventually adopted by a relative. Despite being back in somewhat of a familiar space, there was little guidance and she ended up dropping out of school and becoming a teen mom.
When she was pregnant with her fourth child, she embarked on a spiritual journey. Leaders at Ministers for Christ Christian Center in Houston encouraged her to go back to school and get her GED so that she can start to lay the foundation for her dream of being a lawyer. Although Champs was starting to head in the right direction, the setbacks continued. In 2009, she ended up having a house fire, getting fired from her job, and losing the father of two of her children to cancer; all while she was pregnant.
Despite feeling defeated she continued to push through and focus on her family and education. She went on to earn degrees from Houston Community College and the University of Houston in paralegal studies and now she’s nearly a month away from earning her law degree. Champs credits her children—who are all between the ages of 5 and 12—for helping her make it through school. She says they would quiz her and serve as her mock jury.
Champs hopes that her journey will inspire youth who are living in similar circumstances. “I feel like with what I’ve been through as a child and in my upbringing, I can probably help some of these juveniles who may feel like there’s no hope for them,” she told Yahoo Lifestyle. “I want to be the one to fight for those children who are in these horrible living arrangements. To try to help them reconcile with the family, or if not, give them the same opportunity that I had.”