(CBS) — She used to walk the streets, forced into sex trafficking as a young woman.
Friday, she walked across a college stage to get her diploma.
CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker has the incredible story of one woman’s journey to get an education.
It took 13 years for Shamere McKenzie to earn her degree, after enduring the “torture” of the sex trade.
She says a man she knew and trusted in New York tricked her into becoming a prostitute for him. She had needed money to finish college.
“At first he said all you had to do was dance,” McKenzie, 31, says. “He put me in a club in New Jersey, and in two hours I made $300.”
But that same night, after in dancing in one club, the pimp took her to another. There, he demanded she have sex with the customers. She protested and endured many beatings.
She spent 18 months working in clubs or prostituting on the streets, earning the pimp up to $3,000 a night. She often thought of escaping but didn’t.
A stranger eventually helped her contact the police.
McKenzie has spent the last four years sharing her story, hoping it will inspire others to escape.
“My mission is to stop this. We can’t just sit back and do nothing,” she says.
McKenzie got her degree in criminal justice from Loyola University.
Her pimp was arrested a few years after she escaped. He is serving time sex trafficking, convicted of forcing a 12-year-old girl into prostitution.