All she wanted to do was get a quality higher education, so Professor Kelly Rudin took her in and gave her everything she needed.
Brandon Stanton began his Facebook page Humans of New York by traveling around New York City and photographing interesting-looking folks and interviewing them. Over the years, he has amassed quite the following and even published multiple books. Before the pandemic set in, he was still publishing posts of New Yorkers he came across. However, due to social distancing and other safety measures, he's been staying at home as much as possible. To continue sharing important stories, he asked people to send in their own submissions of photos and descriptions. A young woman from The Gambia was one of them. She traveled all the way to the United States in order to access better quality higher education. When she discovered that she would never be able to afford the tuition here, an incredibly kind woman decided to step in and help.
"I thought studying in the US would be easy," she shared. "I’d attended a United Nations conference in high school, so I already had a visa. I begged my father to let me go. He finally agreed and took out a loan to buy me a plane ticket. I arrived with $150 in my pocket and stayed with a Gambian family in Maryland. For two months I visited schools, asking for financial aid—but nothing was available for people like me. I began to accept the reality that I would need to go back home." That is when she came across a scholarship for international students at Montgomery College, which was just a five-minute bus ride from where she was staying at the time.
She visited the college to learn that the deadline was soon approaching. If she didn't submit the application that very day, she would not be eligible for the scholarship. She frantically ran around the college in search of a computer she could use when she stumbled into Professor Kelly Rudin's office. She described, "She was sitting at her desk. She had currency from all over the world hanging on her wall. I noticed a bill from Gambia, and that’s how we started talking. I stayed for two hours. I told her my entire story, and by the end we were crying and hugging each other." Together, the two researched the scholarship—only to realize it would not work out.
The professor, however, could not let the ambitious student's dreams end there. So, she offered to pay for her tuition. "That night she spoke to her husband Tom, and they decided to pay for my school fees," she explained. "They gave me money for food and clothes. Kelly drove me to Best Buy and got me a phone, and then added me to their family plan. I’m still on that plan today. For two years I lived with the Rudins. Every morning Kelly made me breakfast, and we drove to school together. She and Tom became like my parents. And her children became like my siblings. They hung pictures of me around the house. They helped with my entire education."
The Rudins, as the student described, treated her as their daughter. She was another member of the family. The now-graduate concluded, "When I graduated from Georgetown, they even paid for my father to attend the ceremony. He was so overwhelmed when he arrived. He gave Tom the biggest hug. It was such an emotional moment for me. I thought about how it all started—begging my dad to let me come to America. And here I was, four years later, graduating from Georgetown. My father was with me. And he was thanking the two human beings who took me in and called me their daughter." To see more heartwarming stories, you can visit the official Humans of New York Facebook page here.