Survivor Stories: Brenda Combs

“If I can do it anybody can do it”

Brenda Combs is a symbol of inspiration and perseverance to all who meet her. As a woman who at one time could not help herself, Brenda now spreads a message of hope wherever she goes as Grand Canyon University’s Ambassador of Inspiration & Achievement.

Brenda’s journey to Grand Canyon University has not been an easy one, however. While growing up in a middle-class family in Northern Arizona, Brenda fell into a bad crowd, began using drugs, and dropped out of school. Her life continued on a downward spiral, leading to her serving jail time and becoming homeless. During her darkest days on the streets, she endured unspeakable trauma, including being beaten, shot and raped. It took hitting rock bottom for Brenda to find the strength to turn her life around, on a blistering summer day in Phoenix.

“The day I woke up on the streets and someone had stolen the shoes off my feet, was the day I knew I had to change my life. I knew God had a better plan for my life than this.”

Brenda began taking major steps to re-enter society as a productive individual. She entered rehab and worked hard to overcome her addictions. While living in low income housing, Brenda took a part-time job at a school located in an at-risk neighborhood not far from the streets that had been her ‘home.’ Brenda also stepped up to another major challenge – raising her son, Mycole, as a single mother. Because Mycole had suffered a stroke at birth and had special needs, Brenda was driven to learn all she could to help him. As she worked with the school and with Mycole, she knew she had found her life’s calling – to teach and to inspire by sharing her own story of overcoming tremendous obstacles.

Once Brenda set her sights on becoming a teacher, there was no stopping her. She juggled three jobs and cared for her son while earning a bachelor’s degree in Human Services. Brenda went on to pursue her education at GCU, where she earned a master’s degree in Education in 2007. Today, she is pursing a Doctorate in Education Organizational Leadership under a full-ride scholarship presented to her by GCU. She travels around the country sharing her story as GCU’s Ambassador of Inspiration & Achievement with a variety of audiences, including youth groups, churches, and professional organizations.

Her journey, which has been called “From Rags to Enrichment” by local media, has received tremendous national and local news coverage, including an article in Reader’s Digest magazine, and interviews on NBC’S “Today Show”, as well as CNN News. Brenda has received multiple awards and honors, including a letter of congratulations from former First Lady Laura Bush in 2007, the 2008 WNBA Inspiring Woman Award, and the 2009 Recipient of the Martin Luther King “Living The Dream” Award. She has also appeared on radio talk shows across the country, and was recently invited to sing and share her message at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

“If I can do it anybody can do it. I believe in myself and my ability to do my best. I’m intelligent and I’m capable of achieving greatness. I think every person has inside of them what it takes to succeed.”

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