Mother includes her 'mini lawyers' in photo celebrating law school graduation

PHOTO: Iesha Champs poses with her children in this undated photo.PlayRichard Holman
WATCH Former homeless woman graduates from law school

The image alone is moving: A mother celebrating graduation from law school with her five children by her side.

However, for Ieshia Champs, the picture and the message are about more than just a diploma; they are about beating the odds, family and sacrifice.

"Each one of them played a major role in law school with me," Champs said. "We're all graduating from law school."

PHOTO: Iesha Champs was 19 when she had her first child. She said at one point she felt hopeless after learning that her childrens father had cancer.Ieshia Champs
Iesha Champs was 19 when she had her first child. She said at one point she felt hopeless after learning that her children's father had cancer.

Champs, 33, of Houston, had a tough childhood. Her parents were addicted to drugs so she lived with her grandparents for a while before being placed in foster care. She eventually dropped out of high school.

"I didn't have the guidance," she told ABC News. "I didn't have the stability."

When she was 19, she became a mother and later had to get a job to support her son, David Jr. She later went to have four more children: Davien, 12; Khassidy, 11; Kaleb, 8; and E'mani, 5. David Jr. is now 14.

PHOTO: Iesha Champs of Houston said getting through three years of law school was tough. She credited her children, family and colleagues at Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University with helping her.Ieshia Champs
Iesha Champs of Houston said getting through three years of law school was tough. She credited her children, family and colleagues at Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University with helping her.

Then, almost 10 years ago, Champs said, one of the members of her church called her with a message and a reminder about a dream Champs had since she was 7 years old.

"[She said:] 'God told me to tell you that you need to go back to school to get your GED because that lawyer you want to be, you're going to be it,'" Champs said.

Champs said she was skeptical. At the time, she'd lost her job and had lost all of her family's belongings in a house fire. She was pregnant again and had just learned that her children's father had cancer. She said she felt hopeless.

"[I thought,] 'There's no way I'm going to school to get a GED. I mean, I'm too old. I have too many kids. It's impossible,'" she said.

Champs said she eventually hit rock bottom, even considering suicide, but decided to start studying for the GED because she had nothing to lose.

PHOTO: Iesha Champs of Houston and her five children. She called them her mini lawyers for helping her get through three years of law school.Ieshia Champs
Iesha Champs of Houston and her five children. She called them her "mini lawyers" for helping her get through three years of law school.

After she received her GED, she went a step further, applying to Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University. She was accepted. Champs said getting through those three years of law school was a family affair.

"I went through law school, not by myself. I had such an amazing support system," she said. "My sister has been my rock. ... She would come pick my children up and bring them home. ... God sent me a group of friends who are just amazing. My other sister would come over to help with the kids."

PHOTO: Iesha Champs poses with her children in this undated photo.Richard Holman
Iesha Champs poses with her children in this undated photo.

Champs called her children "mini lawyers," not only quizzing her with flash cards and serving as her mock jury before examinations but also stepping up to cook dinner and helping get each other ready for school each morning.

"My children mean the absolute world to me. ... There have been so many times that I wanted to quit law school -- I probably quit 10 times in my head already. ... They helped me because at the end of the day, I wasn't the only one who had to sacrifice, my children had to sacrifice," she said. "We did it collectively as a group. ... They were my motivation to keep pressing, keep going."

After she graduates in May, she plans to study for the Texas bar exam and get a job offer at a law firm. She said her future goal is to become a federal judge.

"I look at these graduation photos and I say, 'This is here a woman who knew that the odds were against her and she destroyed them,'" Champs said. "I mean, wow!"

PHOTO: Iesha Champs is seeing a childhood dream come true: She is graduating from law school.Ieshia Champs
Iesha Champs is seeing a childhood dream come true: She is graduating from law school.

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