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Caitlin College Tuition

Organized by: Caitlin Gray

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THE STORY:

It was a heart-breaking situation to deal with on both sides. My daughter was in Chicago, while I was in Texas. She received an official notice to vacate the dorms and the campus in 24 hours as her matriculating status was being placed on indefinite hold. With no money to help pay her tuition, fees, living expenses and even transportation back home, we grieved over what to do next. I went to several ministry organizations that I had worked with in the past and no one was able to assist with our need. As I tried to find someone in my circle with a relative living in the Chicago area who could help, no one turned up and the problem seemed insurmountable. I prayed without ceasing and sure-enough, a long-time ministry associate agreed to purchase an Amtrak ticket for my daughter and I wired my last $25 dollars to help with paying for the commuter train to the city and food for the days long trip. My daughter said goodbye to her Basketball team mates, her classmates and teachers with a heavy heart, wondering if she would ever return to her beloved school. She checked out of the dorm, leaving all her belongings, things we struggled to buy in the first place and walked to the Metra station, crying all the way. I helplessly listened to her sob as she pulled her luggage behind her. She cried a little more loudly as she passed the landmarks in the neighborhood, places she spent precious time with her friends and associates. She could barely ask the station attendant for a ticket to Chicago; I assured her it would not be her last ride on the Metra. Several people on the train asked if she was okay, which helped since she was alone with no one to console her aching heart. She strained to say she made it to the Amtrak and was on her way back to Dallas. I picked her up the next afternoon and she melted in my arms. All she wanted to do was go to college, get an education, a good job in a career she felt called to and live a prosperous life with her own family. She worked so hard to get to college, making a pledge to earn an Advanced Studies Diploma; taking all honors courses, while participating in sports. The amazing part of the story is that we were homeless at the time, living in a shelter for Domestic Violence survivors. We didn’t have a car for most of the year so she got up earlier than most to catch the safe ride provided by the school district. Every morning as I walked her to the car stop, we talked about college and the promises of a fresh start, a new beginning for her life. She did everything right, keeping her eyes focused on the promise, even as the kids taunted and bullied her throughout High School. On the days of her ACT and SAT tests, we caught the bus, arriving just at the nick of time to get registered and settled. With a smile of her face, she went in ready to stake her claim to a good score as I anxiously waited outside for her for hours. Her resolve remained the same throughout the year; get through high school and into college, in order to make something of herself. She did everything right, so how could things go so terribly wrong?
We got through graduation as we moved from shelter to shelter trying to stay safe and secure. She applied to four schools getting into each one. Southern Methodist offered a deferred acceptance to give her an opportunity to overcome the hard situation of homelessness. She chose Elmhurst immediately, which turned out to be the best decision for her. I watched my child blossom into an independent, responsible, civic minded adult in the time she spent at Elmhurst College. She not only was a thriving student, but a starter for the Women’s Basketball team. Emotionally, she morphed into a person the world could/would value and it felt even more wonderful to be her mother. When we got word that her financial aid was being pulled because her Social Security File could not be verified, I went to work immediately to fix the problem. Nothing more than the misspelling of her name pushed through a bureaucratic maze that proved too much. Without a resolution the school was not able to release the promised funding that she so desperately needed to continue her studies. Appealing to the College’s President, Trustees and anyone in authority who would listen was futile. Finally, I appealed to my Texas Congressional Representative, Mrs. Eddie Bernice Johnson who was able to solicit a positive end to the situation. Too late to enroll and with no money allocated to assist, my daughter went to work as a camp counselor in Maine this summer to help provide some money for her needs as she prepares to return for the Fall 2014 semester.
While our housing and family situation has been resolved, the need for financial aid/assistance to fund college has not. The Director of Financial Aid at Elmhurst has committed to assisting in every way possible to get her loans, grants and scholarships to fund the 2014-15 school years, but her balance from the previous semester must be paid down to $5000 before she can register for classes. With $14,500 to pay before any further progress to get back in school can be made, we are seeking any and all assistance available to take care of this balance. Several small appeals have been pledged and I have taken the responsibility of making monthly payments on the $5000 deferred balance in order to satisfy the college’s requirement to pay all outstanding charges. It will be difficult to meet this challenge but we have made it thus far and giving up and/or turning back is not an option. Life is what you make of it and together, my daughter and I have chosen to push forward to see her reach the heights of success. I am a parent who leaves no trust fund, insurance pay-out or estate worth any value. However, I leave my daughter a legacy of diligence and determination, as well as the tools to earn her own wealth through education. I ask that you thoughtfully consider our request for assistance as every child who has the will to work hard deserves a chance to excel and enjoy the fruits of their labor. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Regards,

Caitlin S. Gray July 15, 2014

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Caitlin Gray

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