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Congrats and cash offers coming in for former homeless high school student accepted to 12 colleges

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 5/14/2019 Leonard Greene
a close up of a book © Provided by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Generous readers have reached out to the Daily News with offers to help a formerly homeless Bronx student who was accepted to 12 colleges.

Brianna Watts and her mother Bridgette Gibbs felt like sweepstakes winners after running the tables with a dozen college acceptance letters. But the jackpots don’t come with lottery money and the mother and daughter have spent the spring strategizing on how to pay the tuition. They have a few loans and small scholarships lined up, but they’re also talking about bake sales and a lemonade stand.

a person wearing glasses and smiling at the camera © Angus Mordant

But readers of The News who were touched by Brianna’s resilience have offered to help, including funeral home owner Clifford James, who was also homeless for a while in his youth.

James bought a ticket to New York from Atlanta, and worked in a ketchup plant before he finally attended college in Syracuse. Now he owns Unity Funeral Chapel with branches in Harlem, Brooklyn and the Bronx.

“That girl has a lot going on,” James said. “I said I have to do something. I think there should be some effort to help her out.”

One anonymous offer came from the CEO of a local investment firm.

Brianna, a senior at Bronxwood Preparatory Academy High School, received offers from Delaware State University, Virginia State University, the 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.

She plans to attend Delaware State and study business.

Brianna and her mom were living in a shelter when she started high school, but have since transitioned into a supportive housing unit run by the non profit Women in Need (WIN), which offers shelter and support to homeless women and children.

A WIN spokeswoman, Julia Schechter, said the agency was in the process of setting up an account for donations.


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