WARREN, Ohio (WKBN) – Kent State Trumbull is recognizing a special graduate who has jumped several hurdles and reached incredible heights.
Brooklyn Bennett, who was abandoned by her parents and went into foster care 25 years ago, is getting her diploma on Saturday.
“I was only in foster care for two years, but that’s long enough to know the struggle that comes from being in that type of system,” she said.
A record number of Ohio children — 16,000 — are in foster care.
It took a miracle to get Bennett out. Dan and Denise Baker adopter her and her two sisters together.
Bennett graduated from LaBrae High School and tried college four times, but kept withdrawing.
She had two kids but her marriage ended, leaving her a single mom.
“I told myself my whole life that I would give my kids the perfect family and that failure was probably the hardest thing to overcome,” Bennett said.
At one time, she worked three jobs.
Bennett decided to give college another try. The fifth time, something clicked.
She stayed in class. She traveled to Poland on a trip to study the Holocaust. She got scholarships.
“I used to be a quitter but I don’t think I am anymore,” Bennett said.
“She’s really just the whole package and she’s done it as a nontraditional student with two children,” said Assistant Dean Dr. Dan Palmer.
Bennett knows she’s a big influence in the lives of her daughters, Cevanna and Callah. Because of what she’s overcome by age 30, she wants them to understand nothing is impossible.
“I’m very proud that I can stand in front of my children and show them that no matter what we do, no matter what choices we make — good or bad — in the end, we can come out on top,” she said.
Bennett is graduating with honors, including Kent’s Distinguished Graduating Senior in English — a university-wide award.
She wants to help underprivileged women down the road.
“I’ve always felt like there has been somebody to guide me, assist me, help me do the thing that I really wanted to do,” she said. “Now I want to be that person for other people.”
In the fall, she’ll start going after her master’s degree.
“I can’t imagine a scenario in which she doesn’t go on to do wonderful things,” Palmer said.
Bennett will speak at Saturday’s commencement ceremony. Her message is kindness can change the world.