Since leaving home on his own when he was 8 years old, Josh Brewer has overcome tremendous obstacles to achieve his dream of playing basketball at the University of Arizona.

By Alexis Blue (UA Communications) |

TUCSON, Arix.―University of Arizona freshman Josh Brewer was told by many of his high school teachers that college might not be an option for him.

After all, he’d never set foot in a classroom until sixth grade, and academics didn’t come easily to him.

Then again, nothing about Brewer’s life had been easy.

From his days begging for food in his native Ethiopia to the horrific accident that nearly claimed his life, Brewer endured more than his fair share of trauma by the time he was a high school senior, yet his perseverance and drive only continued to grow.

So, when his teachers told him college might not be right for him, he didn’t let it discourage him. He applied to the University of Arizona, where he dreamed of playing basketball.

Brewer starts as a freshman and student-athlete at the UA this fall. A triple amputee, he will play on the UA’s Men’s Wheelchair Basketball team, fulfilling a dream he never could have known he would have when was a young child living on the streets of Ethiopia.

Josh Brewer: A child on his own  

Josh Brewer was born in Ethiopia and lived with his father until he was 7 years old. His parents weren’t married, but when his father passed away, Brewer was sent to live with his mom. The only problem was, she didn’t want him, Brewer says.

“I resembled a lot of my dad to her, and he wasn’t the best person in the world, I guess,” he says.

Brewer spent a little over a year living with his mother and older brother in a home where he says he felt the pain of neglect. When conditions didn’t improve, he decided to leave.

At 8 years old, he didn’t have any money. He didn’t have a plan. He’d never been to school. He hitchhiked on a bus to the Ethiopian city of Metehara, where he slept at bus stops and anywhere else he could find shelter.

Although he’d left his family, Brewer wasn’t entirely alone. On the streets of Ethiopia in 2003, there were many kids like him, he recalls. His is not an uncommon story in a country with one of the world’s largest populations of orphans. An estimated 13 percent, or 4.6 million, Ethiopian children are missing one or both parents – some 800,000 of them orphaned by HIV/AIDS. Brewer isn’t sure how his father died. “He was just gone one day,” he says.

It was on the streets that Brewer made a new family of kids like him. Kids without homes. Kids without parents. Kids learning how to take care of themselves when no one else would, or could.

Continue reading this story at UA News
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