A young man is showing how poverty shouldn’t stand in the way of achieving your dreams. He was homeless when he began college and about to drop out. However, a meeting with a staff member changed everything. And now, he’s a graduate and looking toward the future with hope and ambition.
Caleb Simmons, from Oak Cliff, Texas, had just been admitted to the University of Northern Texas (UNT) in Dallas when he found himself in a rough patch. “We lost our house,” he recalled, according to NBC. “I had nowhere to stay. I had no car at the time.”
Due to not having anywhere to call home, the young man was struggling to keep up with his academic duties. “When I had no place to live, I would miss a lot of classes because I didn’t have any place to stay or any transportation. I was going to stop coming to college,” Simmons told CBS. Close to dropping out, he went to a staff member and explained his struggles.
That staff member was student solutions specialist Joann Chapin. “When I met Caleb, I could just tell he needed some assistance,” she said.
In a bid to help the young man, she got him in touch with another staff member, Luis Franco, director of undergraduate recruitment and admissions, who was able to accommodate him in his house. Franco became a long-term mentor for the student. “A lot of our staff members see a lot of these students as more than just a number, a face in the classroom or their office,” Franco explained. “We know that without addressing the whole student, and their whole situation, they’re not going to be successful.”
The bond between Chapin and Simmons grew into a long-term friendship. “He’s definitely like a son to me,” she stated. He spent holidays with her family. And when dorm rooms became available, she helped him secure a place.
Thanks to the help he received from Chapin and other faculty members, the young man graduated from UTN with a degree in psychology in December 2019. He was even invited to give the commencement speech to his class. Simmons invited Chapin to the graduation to sit in the family section. “I’m proud to get to sit in his family section, and me and my kids get to sit there and watch him, graduate,” she said. He added, “If she wouldn’t have been here I probably wouldn’t be here.”
Armed with his degree, Simmons aspires to seek employment at the university as a student recruiter and help bring his entire family out of poverty. “By breaking it, I mean erasing it, there will be no poverty in my family,” he shared.
In spite of his background, the young man said he has strong confidence in himself and his abilities, which others may interpret as big-headedness. “I tell them, ‘No, the reason I’m like this is because of what I’ve been through.’ I’m extremely proud of myself,” he said.
“No matter how much poverty, or unfortunate circumstances a person can be put in, they can still make a better life for themselves. Opportunities can happen if you go for them,” Simmons said.
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