Obtaining a college education is not cheap, and in the case of one student, the cost put her education on what seemed like a permanent hold — until she picked up a lucky fare.
Latonya Young faced a financial hold that was preventing her from enrolling in the classes she needed to take to earn her associate’s degree from Georgia State University. To support herself, Young worked as a hairstylist by day, and at night, she worked as an Uber driver. And thanks to an incredibly generous passenger who paid nearly $700 to release the hold, she was able to graduate in December 2019!
Making her commencement ceremony even more special, the man who made it possible, Kevin Esch, was there to cheer her on.
“I have thanked him so much but I feel like I haven’t thanked him enough,” Young told “Good Morning America” about Esch’s incredible gift. “It was not just the money but his willingness and his sacrifice for me to do better in life. This man knew me for maybe 20 minutes.”
As a single mom of three, Young has taken a long and challenging road to obtain her degree. Although she dropped out of high school at age 16, she earned her GED in 2007. In 2010, she enrolled in Georgia State. But once the financial hold was placed on her account, a series of setbacks throughout the years prevented her from completing her coursework.
“I asked them could I pay it monthly and they said they didn’t do payment arrangements, so I kind of stopped going to school at that point,” she told GMA. “Then shortly after that I was in a really bad car accident and underwent two surgeries.”
When she picked up Esch at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta in May 2018, the two got to talking, and Esch was inspired to help her achieve her goal. After tipping her $120 on the ride, he took it one step further when he got in touch with the college and paid off the $693 hold on her account.
“It was something I could do that I thought was worth it and would really help her,” Esch explained of the motivation behind his generosity.
Young took to Facebook to express how much his gift meant to her:
“You never know who God will send to change your life,” she wrote. “I had my son at a young age…dropped out of high school…but it’s not how you start in life…it’s how you finish!!! I’m encouraging you all that need an extra push not to give up. Nine days until I walk and become a graduate of Ga State University.”
Now, Young is beginning work on her bachelor’s degree! She’s enrolled in classes this semester.
For his part, Esch feels gratified that his contribution was so impactful.
“There was something about Latonya that just — she resonates with me and we developed an incredible friendship now, and I am incredibly proud of what she’s done, ” he told CNN. “I could’ve bought new clothes or I could’ve helped someone out. And what has come back to me has come back a hundredfold and I would do it 1,000 times over.”