(CBS NEWS) – Ieshia Champs has wanted to be a lawyer since she was 7 years old. In her teenage years, however, the odds began stacking up against her and it appeared that her dream might be permanently out of reach.
“I really didn’t have any stable guidance at that time. My mom was addicted to drugs. My dad was deceased. And I was homeless,” Champs told CBS News. “I lived with friends or whoever would take me in. Then I got pregnant with the first of my five children, and things just went from there.”
Ieshia dropped out of high school and got a job at a call center to support her growing family. Then, in 2009, when Ieshia was pregnant with her fourth child, she suffered a crushing barrage of losses. She lost her home to a fire. She lost her job. She lost her children’s father to cancer. And then, she says, she lost her sanity.
In the depths of despair, Iesha tells CBS News she tried to commit suicide. Shortly afterward, she received a fateful phone call from her pastor.
“Pastor Louise Holman called me one day and said that God told her to tell me to go back to school and get my GED, because that lawyer I wanted to be, I’ll be it!” Champs recalled. “I thought it was a little crazy because I was too old and I had three children with my fourth child on the way.”
But if God had willed it, this woman of faith figured she should probably listen. Ieshia dutifully enrolled back in school and got her GED. Then she went on to Houston Community College, and to the University of Houston-Downtown after that.
Now she’s set to graduate from Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law in May. And to the joy of people across the social media world, she commissioned a set of photos to commemorate the occasion.
“I took the pictures with my kids because they helped me through school. They’re graduating too!” Champs joked proudly. “They would help me review with flash cards while I cooked. They would sit as a mock jury while I taught them what I learned that day. I would sit in my closet and pray and cry because I was overwhelmed and my oldest son, David, would gather his siblings, give them a snack, make them take a bath, gather their school clothes, all to make things easier for me. And I had no knowledge of him doing that until I went to do it!”
In one of those photos, which has now gone viral, Ieshia stands with one heel on a pile of books in front of her five kids. In her hands, she holds a chalkboard with the words, “I did it!” written on it. Her children stand behind her holding chalkboard messages of their own: “We did it!” “I helped too!” “Me too!”
“When I look at the pictures, I cry, I smile, and I’m very grateful,” Champs told CBS News. “I see a woman who at one time knew that the odds were against her. Looking at that picture reminds me of the fact that I didn’t just defy the odds, me and my children destroyed them.”
The photo rapidly garnered tens of thousands of likes on social media, with comments rolling in from all corners of the country.
“As a mother and a woman who’s interested in law school – id love to ask her of her best advice in deciding to pursue & thrive in law school,” one Instagram user wrote, adding, “Congraaaaaaaats! #goals”
Internet slang aside, this is indeed a story about goals — goals set, goals that for a time appeared to be dashed, and goals finally accomplished with the help of faith, resilience and the power of the human spirit.