Meet Kwame

I’ve never met anybody who’s judged me.

Grades

“I’ve never met anybody who’s judged me.”

When I was a junior, I was expelled.

Grades

“When I was a junior, I was expelled.”

I didn't know what I wanted to do.

Feeling Overwhelmed

“I didn't know what I wanted to do.”

I don’t really put myself out there a lot.

Feeling Overwhelmed

“I don’t really put myself out there a lot.”

I’m proud to say that I’m doing very well.

Feeling Overwhelmed

“I’m very proud to say that I’m doing very well.”

I went to school for practically nothing.

Cost

“I went to school for practically nothing.”

Money is out there to help you—just look.

Cost

“Money is out there to help you—just look.”

It was stressful but rewarding in the end.

Cost

“It was stressful but rewarding in the end.”

I wanted to be a teacher.

Cost

“I wanted to be a teacher.”

I just assumed I wasn’t going to go.

Cost

“I just assumed I wasn’t going to go.”

It hits you at once.

Feeling Overwhelmed

“It hits you at once.”

I wasn’t sure what to do.

Cost

“I wasn’t sure what to do.”

Everything was in fine print.

Cost

“Everything was in fine print.”

I was a quiet freshman but now I'm outgoing.

Feeling Overwhelmed

“I was a quiet freshman but now I'm outgoing.”

I had to deal with a lot all at once.

Responsibilities

“I had to deal with a lot all at once.”

I stayed close to home so my parents could visit.

Feeling Overwhelmed

“I stayed close to home so my parents could visit.”

It pretty much gave me a full ride.

Cost

“It pretty much gave me a full ride.”

People are willing to help if you ask them.

Cost

“People are willing to help if you ask them.”

I was intimidated since I was undocumented.

Feeling Overwhelmed

“I was intimidated since I was undocumented.”

My father did not want to help me.

Feeling Overwhelmed

“My father did not want to help me.”

I have a good chance of becoming more stable.

Feeling Overwhelmed

“I have a good chance of becoming more stable.”

Leaving the reservation is a huge step.

Feeling Overwhelmed

“Leaving the reservation is a huge step.”

Meet Kwame

 

I went to school for practically nothing.
Find out how Kwame manages college despite being on his own.
I went to school for practically nothing. (00:32)
Find out how Kwame manages college despite being on his own.
I went to school for practically nothing.
Now Playing
My mom, she just up and left. (01:21)
Kwame was homeless during the final weeks of high school.
My mom, she just up and left.
Now Playing

Snapshot

Year in college
Sophomore
Majors
Political science and prelaw
Favorite musician
Stevie Wonder
Favorite book
They Tell Me of a Home by Daniel Black
College
Private four-year university
Published yearly tuition and fees
$17,954
Financial aid received
Academic and need-based scholarships, campus job
Kwame found himself without support — or even a home — when he needed it most.
His obstacle 

Kwame was three weeks from graduating high school with a 3.86 GPA in the challenging International Baccalaureate (IB) program at his school. He was looking forward to the future.

Then one morning he woke up to find a note from his mother, a single parent. It said she was leaving and that he was on his own. A week later, Kwame was living in his car. He didn't tell friends what was happening because he was embarrassed. “I was just overwhelmed by everything,” he recalls.

How he overcame it 

Although it was hard, Kwame reached out to his best friend and told her he was homeless. Her family took him in and helped him prepare for college.

He accepted an offer to attend a two-year school. The college helped Kwame change his financial aid status from “dependent” to “independent,” and he received enough money to cover the full cost of tuition and books.

Currently, Kwame attends a private college that he is able to afford through a combination of academic and need-based scholarships. He also works as a resident adviser (an RA). RAs help enforce university housing policy and often act as student counselors or mediators. In exchange, he gets free room and board as well as a small wage.

Life at college 

A prelaw student, Kwame hopes to be an entertainment lawyer one day. This future is possible, he says, because he was willing to ask for help.

“At my current school, nobody knew [about my mother leaving] until I wrote a scholarship essay,” Kwame says. “One of the judges, a professor, came by my dorm room and took me out to eat. He was thankful [that I opened up] and said that my story could help others, so I should get out there and tell people."

He still doesn’t know where his mother is, but finding himself on his own has made him stronger. "My life now is wonderful,” he says. “I see much more schooling in my future. My mom left me, but [I'll always have what] she instilled in me: Education is ... key.”

Financial aid glossary

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Financial Aid

Money intended to make up the difference between what your family can afford and what college costs. Most college students receive aid.

Need and Merit

Scholarships and other types of financial aid are awarded to students with need, merit or both. Need-based aid is given only to students whose families can’t afford the full cost of the college they want to attend. Merit aid is awarded based on academic success and other achievements.

FAFSA

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is the most important form to fill out if you want help paying for college. It’s used to figure out how much your family is expected to pay toward your education.

Learn more about paying for college.

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