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The Promise: How One Woman Made Good on Her Extraordinary Pact to Send a Classroom of 1st Graders to College Hardcover – April 5, 2005

4.6 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

On a whim one afternoon in 1987, Brown, a middle-class woman living in the poor and crime-ridden community of East Oakland, Calif., walked into her classroom of 23 first graders and promised that if they finished high school, she'd send them all to college. Of that first group of "her babies," as Brown calls them (her own children were already grown up), 19 went on to college. Today, the Oral Lee Brown Foundation sends 20 teenagers from this same community to college every four years. Brown's experience with the first group was difficult, but she only briefly explains how it affected her personally, preferring to focus on the kids (although her constant reminders that she's doing so do become grating). She raised money (donating her own income as a base) and acted as a second family to these children, taking them on college tours; buying them books and groceries; and, occasionally, putting them up in her own house. Written with San Jose Mercury News reporter Millner, the book is didactic in its approach, yet should inspire parents and teachers, who will especially appreciate the "tip sheet for college acceptance" at book's end.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

In 1987, haunted by a little girl begging for food in her East Oakland neighborhood, Brown impulsively adopted a first-grade class at a local elementary school. Having promised to finance a college education for each of the 23 students, on a salary of only $45,000 a year, Brown pledged to save $10,000 each year. The pledge strained her marriage and committed her to working several jobs. But 12 years later, using her personal investment and funds raised through the Oral Lee Brown Foundation, she made good on her promise--sending 19 of the 23 students to college. In this astonishing account, Brown recalls how she managed to keep in touch with the students, who were from unstable families and a disadvantaged neighborhood, developing strong personal ties with each of her "babies" and keeping them on track for college. Brown has extended her promise to a new crop of students. An inspirational look at the determination of one woman to make a difference in her community and in the lives of disadvantaged children. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1 edition (April 5, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385511477
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385511476
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,484,485 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Words fail me when it comes to Ms. Oral Lee Brown. We were living in the bay area when the Oakland Tribune and other media were reporting on her promise to send an entire 1st grade class to college. A real estate woman who was making less than 50k a year and a big heart and a bigger faith in God is what made her quest and her story so awesome.

And she made some big sacrifices and it did put a bit of a strain on her marriage and family life. And for some of the students parents who worked 2-3 jobs just to support their families, she would often step in and volunteer to attend PTA and parent-teacher meetings and report back to the parent(s). It wasn't just funds she was setting aside for college expenses but her time and energy.

As silly as it may sound she often gives as an example, that instead of buying shoes for her kids at Macy's she would buy shoes at Payless (just like many of us). And she would work more than one job herself.

What she shows is that if a woman who makes less than 50k a year can set aside money for twelve years to send a couple dozen kids to college, then a huge number of Americans can and should try to do the same.

What if a handful of citizens in a given city/town/village/community were to set up a foundation like she did, and raise money to put next years first grade class thru college in twelve years?

Education is power, and while we homeschooled, I still believe that no matter the educational choice, that any child who can get into a Jr. college or four year institution should have that guarantee of funding.

Ms. Oral Lee Brown is a hero of mine.
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Format: Hardcover
I first heard of Oral Lee Brown a few years ago when one of the children from her original class was accidentally killed. I read a little about Mrs. Brown and when the book came up for review I had to get to know the lady behind the heart. I was not disappointed, this book displays an angel in disguise. A humble woman who just wants to do all she can for those in need. Determined, dedicated and courageous are words I would use to describe her and each of the classes her foundation takes on. The child who initially inspired Oral Lee to start her foundation, was an angel sent from God, to help Mrs. Brown fulfill her purpose here on earth. In addition, to this being an inspiring read, there are tips on applying for college found at the end for both parents and students. If you need inspiration to do something you have been putting off, reading THE PROMISE will give you the motivation you need.

Reviewed by Eraina B. Tinnin

of The RAWSISTAZ™Reviewers
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Format: Hardcover
More than anything else, our youth need people to be there for them for the LONG-TERM. Not for 1 day, or 1 week, or 1 month, but as Oral Lee Brown shows us, for years. Imagine how our next generation would be impacted if adults nationwide reached out in just 10% of the way that Oral Lee Brown did? Go Ms. Brown for inspiring us all and go Caille Millner for doing such a wonderful job capturing this story. You're both heroes!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An inspiring memoir of a woman who pledged to pay for the college education of a class of impoverished first graders. The author not only commits her own meager financial support, but all the resources she can muster to ensure the success of "her" kids.

This very accessible book should be read by everyone who cares about the education of children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
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