Raleigh lawyers helping 70-year-old college student achieve law school dream after she lost everything in fire

ABC11 Together highlights the strength of the human spirit, good deeds, community needs, and how our viewers can help

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ByJoel Brown via WTVD logo
Friday, May 11, 2018
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It's been a little over 2 months since a fire that destroyed everything Shirley owned.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- It's been a little over two months since the fire that destroyed everything Shirley Fuller owned.

The 70-year-old is rebuilding her life and not letting go of her college dreams. Thursday night, Fuller received a special award to help make her dreams a reality.

The Capital City Lawyers Association is stepping up to help this great-great-grandmother fulfill her dreams of going to law school -- dreams that could've easily been deferred after the devastating fire in late winter.

"I read ABC11's website every day and I came across the article (about Fuller)," said CCLA's Public Service Committee Chair Vanessa Curtis. "I was like, 'oh my God, we have to do something for her.'"

Fuller's apartment in north Raleigh went up in flames in early March. The accidental fire left her homeless and living in a hotel.

This inspiring septuagenarian we met a year ago when she was awarded her first associate's degree from Wake Tech was in tears and scrambling to figure out how to continue her late-in-life journey towards higher education.

"And I saw that she wanted to go to law school and she wanted to go to NC Central University, which is actually my alma mater, I was like, 'this is perfect!'" Curtis said.

And so CCLA turned one of its scholarships for deserving local law students into a "gift of encouragement" for Fuller.

"I was so surprised. I really was," Fuller said. "I said, 'me? Why do they wanna do this for me?'"

Curtis said the answer was simple; Fuller offered hope.

"She's overcome drug addiction, sexual assault. One of her goals is to open up a recovery home for women battling addiction," Curtis said. "She's really inspired all of us here tonight."

Fuller says her financial aid recently ran out leaving her to pay for college out-of-pocket.

"This gift that (CCLA) gave me, oh Jesus, it's helping me pay for my summer classes and that's a blessed thing," Fuller said.

It's just the latest blessing since the fire. An ABC 11 viewer previously donated a new laptop and printer. She's moved into a new apartment. And, her burnt up clothes have all been replaced by the goodwill of others.

"The furniture and everything is paid for and I got a closet full of clothes," Fuller said with a smile.

Fuller is back on her feet and chasing her dreams again -- telling these young lawyers, she'll return soon to pay it forward.

"One day I'm gonna be introducing somebody here," Fuller said. "All praises due to God."