Thursday, October 18, 2007

Brenda Combs - She Made It!

Brenda Combs was a homeless drug addict. Now she’s an award winning, respected teacher with two college degrees. Please take the time to watch the video. I’m not crazy about what I feel is Rick Sanchez’s tone but it’s worth enduring it to see Ms. Combs dignified reactions to his condescending questions. And it’s even more gratifying to see the dean of Grand Canyon University surprise her with the gift of a full ride scholarship for a PhD in Leadership in Education.

At the end of the interview, Rick Sanchez asks what advice she can pass along to others who are striving to make their lives better. Brenda says, “I say to them what I tell my students every day is that I believe in myself and my ability to do my best. I am intelligent and I am capable of achieving greatness, and I think that every person has inside of them what it takes to succeed, even if they need a little support.”

At 45, Brenda’s future is bright. She is a teacher at StarShine Academy, a charter school serving kindergarten to twelfth grades and recently listed in Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers. When she received her Master Degree from Grand Canyon University, First Lady Laura Bush sent personal congratulations.

Brenda is an inspiration to her students. StarShine Academy is located near the airport in Phoenix, Arizona in one of America’s most violent neighborhoods. The crackle of gunfire can be heard among the shabby stucco houses. Jacked-up cars blaring hip-hop music cruise the streets while police helicopters patrol the skies. But in Ms. Combs class there is peace and inspiration.

“Miss Brenda made me see that wherever you come from, you can do something great,” says one of her students who won a scholarship for gifted students to a Catholic high school. He says by sharing her own struggle to overcome addiction, Ms. Combs steered him away from drugs and toward his dream of becoming an architect.

She is an inspiration on so many levels. When she was homeless and addicted to crack and her shoes (her last bit of dignity) were stolen on a blistering hot day, she didn’t give up. She took stock of her life and knew that it was not her fate to sit shoeless under a bridge until she died of a drug overdose.
Of that moment in her life Combs said, "Whatever it is you want to do, whatever it is you want to be, it's up to you to make the right choice.”
She chose life for herself and contacted her family, turned herself into her probation officer and moved into a halfway house.

Twelve years and much hard work later she has the life and career she dreamed of. In the words of Rick Sanchez, “You Go Girl!”


mikster said...

Wow. That's quite a lady. I couldn't listen to the whole interview. There's just something about the interviewer's style that drives me batty. She's definitely an inspiration though.

thewishfulwriter said...

This gave me chills. People who overcome adversity have every bit of my respect. It's a tough road if you aren't born into a life of even middle-class privelege.

awesome story!

Lisa McGlaun said...


Wow..I felt the same way about the intereviewer. Glad you got that feeling too and it wasn't just me that had a problem with him and the way he talked to Ms. Combs. I guess I wanted him to be astounded by her and as reverant as I would be in questioning her about her accomplishments.

I think she is amazing!


Lisa McGlaun said...


I was definately born into the advantages that come with being middle class. There are very few times in my life when I had to struggle and even then I knew I could call on my family if it got too bad.

I have the upmost respect for people who don't have that safety net and still thrive in this world. They are the people to look up to.

Thanks for the comment...hugs,

Anonymous said...

I thought Rick's questions were dead on and made the story that much better. Great job Rick!

Lisa McGlaun said...


Maybe my feelings about the interviewers attitude toward Ms. Combs came from having read several accounts of her story before I watched the video.

He played loose with a few of the details and didn't have his facts straight about her college education. I felt like he'd read a bullet statement minutes before air time and prejudged her based upon three points..homeless, crack addict, redeemed.

I felt instead of treating her with the respect she deserved he was short with her and dismissed the real underlying story. Maybe he just didn't have the time for that in this interview. I don't know anything about his style so maybe he also is that way with everyone. It just rubbed me the wrong way but I wanted to present it because I felt her story was important.

Thanks for your comment.

Best Wishes,

La delirante said...

"I believe in myself and my ability to do my best. I am intelligent and I am capable of achieving greatness, and I think that every person has inside of them what it takes to succeed, even if they need a little support..." What a wonderful advice. I am trying to be more positive in my life approach and I am currently reading books that will help me to achieve that. I believe in myself but I must remember everyday that I need to see the bright side of everything and count the blessings. Thanks for sharing this wonderful story Lisa. Your posts help me to put things in perspective and it makes me think that I can achieve my goals too.

Lisa McGlaun said...


Doing these posts helps me keep things in prespective also. I'm glad they help you out in the same way.

When I'm feeling down, I'm going to remember Brenda's quote and all she overcame. If that is possible for her then anything is possible for me too.


jim lee said...

Brenda Played Piano in my Jazz Band at Flagstaff High. I would sure like to contact her. Any help?

Lisa McGlaun said...

Dear Jim,

I don't know her personally. If you Google the name of the school where Brenda works there is contact info on the front page. Hope this helps.

Best Wishes,