Giving to Brown

Hoop Dreams: Brown Believes in Sheila Dixon '13

It wasn’t the most promising of beginnings: born to a drug-using mother, she was abandoned at the hospital, traces of cocaine in her bloodstream. Twelve days later, she was placed in a foster home, where she became the youngest of 15 biological and adopted children.  Yet, Sheila Dixon says, “I always dreamed of going to an Ivy League school.” Thanks to that drive, prodigious athletic talent, and generous financial aid, her dream became a reality.

... it was the support of people I’d never met that ultimately made a Brown education possible for me. - Sheila Dixon '13

“My mom instilled important morals and values in my siblings and me,” says Sheila. “She said that anything was possible if we work hard.” So Sheila did. A tomboy, she competed against her brothers in races, swimming, football, and basketball.  To level the playing field at home, Sheila did one more thing: she endeavored to bring home the best grades.

That goal, she discovered, forced her to adopt a path that differed from that of some classmates: “I saw the consequences if I hung out with my friends instead of doing my homework. You could choose to go left or right, and I chose to go right.”

Early on, her athletic ability was also noted by her elementary school principal and others. Summer basketball camps and encouragement from mentors and coaches became the norm for this once-abandoned child. “People have always helped me, have had my back,” is her recollection.

During her high school years, Sheila eschewed the fights and chaos common in the 3,000-student institution, selecting to focus her energies on the optional International Baccalaureate Program for college-bound scholars. “The school was big, and things got progressively worse,” she remembers. “But the administrators tried to make it a safe haven.”

Ultimately, she chose Brown. And Brown coaches, impressed by what they saw, recruited her. “I fell in love with this school,” she says. “I applied early decision, so it was months before I saw my financial aid award. My mom and my mentors were blown away. They said that Brown must really believe in me, in what I can be.”

A senior gearing up for her last year playing college basketball, Sheila has racked up impressive athletic honors: second team All-Ivy, Cox Sports Division I Rhode Island Women’s Player of the Year, Ivy League Player of the Week, and last year’s leading scorer and rebounder for her team. A political science concentrator, she’s also a Presidential Host, a tutor through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and a Black Student Union member. With her team, she mentors students in the Vartan Gregorian Elementary School. Her future? Sheila aspires to playing a few years of professional basketball overseas followed by a law degree and a career in government service.

She smiles. “I’m fortunate and thankful to be here. I worked hard, but it was the support of people I’d never met that ultimately made a Brown education possible for me. Anyone who gives to financial aid cares about the next generation. That’s a special gift.”


Written and photographed by Catharine Beattie