Persevering Despite Family Tragedies

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Persevering Despite Family Tragedies

Even in an auditorium filled with youths who have overcome obstacles, the triumph of the Brown siblings stood out during a special ceremony last week.

Gail Brown, 22, and her brother Gavin, 24, have had to cope with the deaths of two sisters and a niece and a sister's miscarriage over the past two years. Yet, Gail Brown stayed in college and was among the graduates honored at Capitol College in Laurel on June 20.

Gavin Brown, an alumnus of First Generation College Bound, returned as the event's guest speaker.

"I wanted to give up so many times," said Gail Brown, who received a bachelor's degree in psychology from Bowie State in the spring. "I actually thought about quitting college and just moving far away."

Staying focused was particularly tough in December when Brown's sister, Lisa Brown, 22, and Lisa's 9-month-old daughter, Labria, were fatally shot in their South Laurel apartment. No one has been charged, and the case remains under "active investigation," said a county police spokesman, Cpl. Stephen Pacheco.

In May 2005, another sister, Toni Brown, 24, who was eight months pregnant and diabetic, fell into a coma and died after her blood-glucose level dropped too low. The fetus did not survive.

Gail Brown said the College Bound program was like a second family that helped push her through difficult times. Now, she plans to pursue a master's degree in human services administration at the University of Baltimore. She was among 16 college graduates and 68 college-bound high school graduates who were honored at the ceremony at Capitol College in Laurel last week.

Now in its 17th year, First Generation College Bound runs homework clubs and SAT prep courses, makes college visits, and helps steer participants through the college application and financial aid processes. Based at Laurel and Potomac high schools in Laurel, the program plans to expand to Parkdale High School in Riverdale next year.

-- Steve Earley, Gazette Staff Writer

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