Brenda Combs

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Brenda's Journey from homeless drug-addict to esteemed Educator has not been an easy one.

Brenda now travels around the country sharing her story as GCU's Ambassador of Inspiration & Achievement with a variety of audiences, including youth groups and professional organizations.

Living proof that the human spirit can overcome the toughest of obstacles, Brenda Combs' motto is: "If I can do it, anybody can do it." With a life story dubbed "from homeless to hero" by the media, Combs overcame a cocaine addiction and an unrelenting life on the streets to attain a master's degree in special education, earn a doctorate in organizational leadership, and become a teacher of at-risk youth – all while raising a young son on her own.

Growing up as part of a religious suburban Arizona family, Combs fell in with a bad crowd following high school, and her partying quickly became a gateway to drug use. Her cocaine addiction led to a life of petty crime and prison time, but those were the least severe consequences she faced. While homeless, Combs was raped, overdosed multiple times, and nearly lost her ankle in a shooting. It was when she woke up one morning on the street to find her shoes were stolen that she decided it was time to rebuild her life.

Combs entered rehab and began working three jobs. After removing herself from an abusive marriage, she found her calling as an educator and pursued a degree in human services from the University of Phoenix. Upon receiving her master's degree, former First Lady Laura Bush personally congratulated her. Known for her interactive lesson plans that combine music with learning, Combs' encouraging attitude and unique teaching style continues to inspire her students. One of her former pupils states, "Miss Brenda made me see that wherever you come from, you can do something great."

Combs has been listed in Who's Who Among America's Teachers and featured in Reader's Digest, and has appeared on CNN News and The Today Show. She has created the Finding My Shoes event in Phoenix to help the city's homeless during the winter, and is an advocate for domestic violence awareness.

Speaking Topics

From Homeless to Hero: Overcoming Trauma & Changing Your Life
Fewer than 12 years ago, Combs was a homeless crack addict and criminal who had been shot, beaten and raped. Today, having completely turned her life around, the media has lauded her journey as being “from homeless to hero.” A single mother who is currently pursuing a doctorate in Organizational Leadership, Combs motivates others with her inspirational story of perseverance: “If I can do it anybody can do it…I think every person has inside of them what it takes to succeed.”

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