Talk about perseverance! Nineteen-year-old James Ward of Los Angeles launched an online campaign just last week called “Homeless To Howard.” And in that short amount of time, he’s raised enough money to enroll at the HBCU.
“His site is collecting donations through Paypal and has picked up steam across social media. Teach For America sent out a tweet highlighting Ward’s story, and rapper Common shared the link to the site, supporting Ward’s dream to attend college,” reports The Huffington Post.
So far he has raised $12,000, enough to handle the first-year expenses not covered by loans or grants. He ultimately wants to raise the funds for all four years of college.
The average cost of the freshman year at Howard University (tuition, fees, and room and board) is $32,165. Ward has received loans and grants to cover 70 percent of the amount. Ward also tried to apply for a Parent PLUS loan before the campaign. Since such a loan looked to his mother’s credit, he was denied. Books and supplies, transportation and other incidentals required the additional funds, between $12,000 and $14,000.
Howard students overall were affected by “credit requirement changes in the Federal Direct PLUS Loan program,” HuffPo reports. “Several media reports cite stricter enforcement of credit history requirements, which has hit HBCU students especially hard. According to Department of Education numbers provided to the United Negro College Fund, 28,000 students attending HBCUs were denied a Parent PLUS loan in the 2012-2013 school year.”
Ward has been homeless since he was 14, along with his mom and two younger siblings. The family has lived in his mom’s car, and moved between different shelters and relatives’ homes until they secured a spot at the Union Rescue Mission in Los Angeles’ Skid Row neighborhood in February 2012. He will be the first in his family to attend college. He hopes to become an astrophysicist or a genetic engineer.
“We had a lot of ups and downs, but through it all, I’ve always managed to keep my grades up and help my younger brother and sister do the same and keep them on the right track as well as myself,” said Ward.
He was determined to attend college so he figured out a plan and got help from Jessica Sutherland.
“Sutherland, the driving force behind the online campaign, is no stranger to the struggles Ward is facing because she also experienced homelessness as a teen, attended college and made a way for herself,” reports HuffPo. Sutherland, now a junior producer at Yahoo! Studios, met Ward when she spoke at the Union Rescue Mission.
“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,” Ward said.