One of my favorites to read about as a young girl was George Washington Carver. He was a slave, had a chaotic early life, educated, educator, scientist. If you don't know much about him, check google.
Here are several quotes from the 'Wisdom of George Washington Carver':
"99% of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.
"When you do the common things of life in an uncommon way,
you will command the attention of the world.
"How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young;
compassionate with the aged;
sympathetic with the striving;
and tolerant of the weak and strong,
because some day in your life
you will have been all of these."