Oakland mentor Oral Brown pushes for Boarding School.
Oral Lee Brown visits with first-graders at Brookfield Elementary, where she first adopted a class in 1987. Photo: Leah Millis, The Chronicle

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2013 Jefferson National Gold Award Winner

Oral Brown
Every year the National Jefferson Awards Ceremony reminds us that America?s volunteer spirit is unique. People?s stories are inspirational. Today the Jefferson Awards is one of the nation?s largest multipliers of volunteers. From small beginnings in 1972, we?re now a national brand for service excellence and a dynamic force for impacting lives.?

- Lee Carter, Past Jefferson Awards Board Member
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OAKLAND (CBS 5) – LaTosha Hunter was the first in her family to finish college. She graduated in Accounting from Alcorn State University in Mississippi and gives a lot of credit to this week’s Jefferson Award winner: Oral Lee Brown

Brown never forgot how education has changed her life. As a child she picked cotton in Mississippi. She went to night school, and got her degree– and eventually built her own real estate agency in Oakland. But seeing the tough life kids were facing in her community gave her an idea.

In 1987 Oral Lee made a promise to the first graders at Brookfield elementary school in Oakland. She said if they worked hard, she’d see them through college, paying their tuition.Of That first class, 19 of the 23 students graduated from high school and enrolled in college. Oral Lee didn’t stop there–

On the wall of her office in Oakland, she proudly shows off photos–of her babies– as she calls them– six more classes of students headed to college

Oral Lee has helped over 100 students have a better future…and she has dreams of starting a boarding school.

For more information on helping Oral Lee Brown send students to college, visit her foundation’s website.

Oprah Winfrey, The Honorable Sandra Day O'Connor, Oral Lee Brown, Carolyn Blashek and Sister Terry Dodge to Be Honored With Minerva Awards(R) by California First Lady Maria Shriver at The Women's Conference 2010
Ms. Oral Brown, Founder/CEO of the Oral Lee Brown Foundation was chosen June, 2010 by Maria Shriver, first Lady of California and, it was announced on Good Morning America that Ms. Brown, will be receiving the prestigious Minerva Award October, 2010 along with Oprah Winfrey, Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and two other awardees.

We ask you to help us support Ms. Browns dream of helping students break their cycle of poverty through education.

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OAKLAND - It was their last piece of salt pork.

It sat at the bottom of a pot, seasoning collard greens that would be served with dinner. Oral Lee Brown watched her mother prepare food in their small Mississippi home. Although the family was far from well off, Brown and her 11 siblings never went hungry.

A young neighbor knocked on the door, asking for whatever meat they could spare to prepare her own collard greens. Oral Lee Brown watched her mother pull that last piece of salt pork out of the pot, cut it in half, wrap it, and hand it to their neighbor.

"When you give all you got, I think that's the greatest gift anyone can give," Brown said. "In the '50s and '60s, in the South, it really was a village. Everyone looked out for each other.

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The Book
The Promise: The Story of a Woman with a Big Heart and Even Bigger Dreams

The Nothern America rights to 'The Promise: The Story of a Woman with a Big Heart and Even Bigger Dreams', the memoirs of Oral Lee Brown has been sold to Doubleday (Randomhouse).

The book is being written in conjuction with Caille Millner, whose work has appeared in Children of the Dream: Growing Up Black in America, Essence magazine, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, Newsweek, Art & Understanding, and The Fader. Millner has received awards from the National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts, the National Press Club, and the New York Black Journalists? Association, as well as a Berta Ledecky Fellowship from Harvard Magazine. In addition, she was recently voted one of Columbia Journalism Review?s "Ten Young Writers to Watch."

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San Francisco Chronicle Highlights the Children of the Oral Lee Brown Foundation

In March 2003 the San Francisco Chronicle updates us on Oral Brown and her students.

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