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Once-Homeless NYC Teen Gets Accepted Into A Dozen Colleges

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - A Bronx girl who overcame homelessness to be accepted to a dozen colleges, but now a new challenge lies ahead.

One college acceptance is cause for celebration, but now Brianna Watts has 12 reasons to celebrate, reports CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff.

"Shocking, I guess you could say shocking," she says of her success.

The 18-year-old Bronx teen got into every college of the dozen she applied to, beating the odds in not only in college admissions but in life.

She was brought up at times homeless by a then-crack-addicted mother who spent time in prison

Brianna stayed positive.

"I know there people worse than me who didn't have a place to sleep or food to eat, and I still had that even though I was in a shelter," she said.

"I always encouraged them to be better than me," said mother Bridgette Gibbs.

Hard work paid off as the Bronxwood Preparatory Academy Student who earned honor roll every semester.

"I tried not to let my circumstance define me, who I was as a person," said Brianna. "I went from getting 75s and 65s my ninth grade year to getting 90s my 10th grade year."

After all that hard work, the hardest part ahead: paying for college. Even state schools.

"Room and board would be between $14,000 and $18,000," she said.

After doing all the right things, she won't stop now.

"I'm going to college no matter what, I don't care how much I have to borrow," she said.

Her past turned out not to be any deterrent for her.

"It turned out to be great because look at who I am now," she said.

"If you can help the next person climb up because you climbed up, and be resilient," said mom Gibbs.

That resilience is thanks in part to supportive housing run by WIN - Women In Need – an organization run by former city council speaker Christine Quinn.

"I think the fact that college isn't accessible for all, that it's not out-and-out free for someone like Brianna, is a terrible condemnation of education in our country," said Quinn. "But we can't be held back by that, we are just going to overcome it."

As Brianna considers a dozen college choices, she's inspired by her own mother who went back to school herself.

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