From Homeless To Howard: 19-Year Old Homeless Teen Raises Tuition Money Off Of Online Donations
Dreams do come true especially for 19-year-old James Ward who will be attending Howard University beginning this fall. Thanks to rapper Common and ‘Teach For America’ foundation campaigning on his behalf, James was able to raise $12,000 towards tuition not covered by grants and loans.
Since the age of 14 James, his mother and two siblings have been homeless, living with relatives and shelters and most of the time in his mom’s car. In February of last year, the family began staying at the Union Rescue Mission in the Skid Row district of Los Angeles. Although he attended three different schools he was able to maintain perfect grades and graduated this June.
His dreams came true after meeting Jessica Sutherland, a junior producer at Yahoo! Studios who was a guest speaker at the Union Rescue Mission. She says:
“I got my first period in a homeless shelter. I had Christmas in a homeless shelter. I know what it’s like to live in a homeless shelter at such a self-conscious age when you’re going through so much.[…]I was terrified [to speak at the Union Rescue Mission], but I did it. I told all the kids that scars heal and you probably couldn’t tell that I lived in a shelter like this when I was your age, and just tried to give them a message of hope and teach them to ask people for help.
My attitude is — like myself, I also grew up homeless — he didn’t ask to be born into this, and it’s not his credit, but he’s the one being punished for it.
James reflects on the generosity of strangers who put him on the path to Washington D.C. He says he has renewed his faith that there are kind people in this cold world who still willing to help the needy.
He tells Huffington Post:
I would’ve never thought that something we started just a couple of days ago would’ve turned out to become this massive. However, it makes me feel very happy because I know that although the world may seem like a harsh and cold place, there are some people out there that care and want to give to those in need.
One of the biggest things I’ve learned from my experiences is that, no matter who you are or how scared you are, as long as you ask for help there’s always someone out there who is willing to help you,” he said. “More kids should understand that because if they did, then you never know what could happen. They could find their own Jessica maybe. But I doubt it, not like mine.”
When asked what he plans to study in college, he responded:
I want to be an astrophysicist or a genetic engineer. I’m not sure which route I’m going to go, but I know it’s one of those two. Science has always been one of the biggest parts of my life.
[I’m] following my dreams, but it was never about me. It was always about my younger brother and sister learning that education is what they need, because as long as you have knowledge, no one can ever take it from you.
James Ward will be the first in his family to attend college. His mother is planning to enter college to pursue a undergraduate degree in the Spring and his sister, 14 and brother, 7 will be enrolled in his school as well. He, his mother, and sister could possibly graduate in 2017. How exciting?!
Source: Huffington Post