She calls them “my babies”—public school students she informally adopts in the roughest section of Oakland, CA. They call her “Ma,”—Mrs. Oral Lee Brown, a most remarkable community activist who, starting in 1987, promised twenty-three children (an entire first grade class): if they study hard and graduate high school, she’ll somehow scrape together the money to put them all through college. And she’s been true to her word.
- How does one woman pay for 23 children to go to college on a $45,000 a year salary?
- What prompted her to do so?
- Is one woman’s promise to those children enough motivate them to succeed?
There’s nothing that I would not do for those kids then or now to help them better themselves. I expected a lot out of them, I gave a lot, and I demanded a lot.”
—Oral Lee Brown