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When Student Loans Didn’t Pan Out, This Teen Turned to Crowdfunding

July 7, 2014
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When Student Loans Didn’t Pan Out, This Teen Turned to Crowdfunding
To find money for college formerly homeless teen James Ward turned to crowdfunding. Homeless to Higher Ed/Facebook
The generosity of online patrons paid for his freshman year at Howard University.

With skyrocketing tuition costs making it so hard for many families to afford college, dreams of higher education can, at times, feel a little out of reach. Which is why some students have to get more creative and resourceful.

That’s exactly what James Ward realized when he left for college last year. Instead of borrowing money or having a typical work-study job, Ward chose a rather unconventional method — which is perhaps quite fitting for his unusual life. In order for this homeless student to achieve his dreams of higher education, he turned to the internet and more specifically, crowdfunding.

How did he come up with this unique funding option?

A few weeks before he was to head to Washington D.C. to attend Howard University in July 2013, Ward’s Parents Plus loans were rejected, leaving him with no money for school. Thankfully, though, his mentor, Jessica Sutherland – another former homeless child and college graduate — had the idea to turn to crowdsourcing.

Within eight hours after Homeless to Howard was launched, it had already raised $8,000. Ultimately, the campaign raised enough money to send Ward to college, paying for both his tuition and expenses.

Now, Ward has successfully completed his freshman year majoring in physics, making him the first member of his family to go to college.

As Ward told Here and Now’s Jeremy Hobson in an interview, “You have to stay strong and ambitious and determined because there are a thousand reasons why you shouldn’t succeed in life, but all you need is one to get you to where you need to be.”

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