Tiffony Jacobs – Think. Believe. Achieve.

Tiffony Jacobs started life with nothing. And then she grew up with even less. In this powerful and emotional speech, she remembers the one teacher that believed in her and that changed her life forever.


I grew up in a household filled with domestic violence.

My father became an alcoholic and a drug addict. And for any of you that are familiar with those demons, you understand the abuse that can come from them.

I remember my mother getting beaten to a bloody pulp so bad that her eyes were swollen shut. And her lips were bleeding and sore and she could hardly even smile at her own children.

When my father got a job in California, he promised us life was gonna be better. But when we got there, unfortunately he led us to a life of homelessness and desolation. Where we had to live on the streets, in hotels and motels, homeless shelters with rats and roaches, never knowing where our next meal would come from, always depending on the government every first of the month just to survive.

If you’ve seen the Freedom Writer movie then you’ve seen my mother. Standing on those streets with a homeless will work for food sign. Striving to feed her family. So I know why financial literacy is so important for all communities. Because if my mother had known better, she would have done better to protect and provide for her family.

And for a long time, I never truly believed that dreams could come true. Until I was placed in Erin Gruwell’s class in high school. I was so grateful for Ms. Gruwell for introducing holocaust education to us. ‘Cause we got an opportunity to meet actual survivors. Not victims, who rebuilt their lives from nothing after being starved and tortured and displaced. And that was everything that I had always felt growing up.

And for the first time I got excited about education because I thought real change is possible.

When Ms. Gruwell told me that if I think about something and I put my mind to it, and I believed in all my heart that can make it happen. And I actually put into plan and took the steps to make it happen, then all dreams can come true.

And so I made it a point to graduate from college, still that wasn’t enough. You know those t-shirts that say I went somewhere and all I got was this t-shirt? Well I feel like I went to college and I got a piece of paper with my name with calligraphy on it. I was still living paycheck to paycheck. Still not knowing the financial education that would allow me to solidify my family’s future and never live a life of poverty. Never lay my head on a concrete ground ever again. Never stand in a food line and ask for food to eat, ever again.

And now that I know I can accomplish anything, my goal is to reverse the cycle of poverty. And teach families and help families to understand that they never never have to live a hopeless existence. They can keep a roof over their heads. They can feed their families. They can thrive, they can prosper, I know I can do it. Do you know you can do it?

Ms. Gruwell told me if I think it and I believe it, then I can achieve it. Let’s give it all we got, if I think it, and I believe it, then I can achieve it. You better believe dreams come true.