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.
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.
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.”