Uber Driver Successfully Completes College Education Thanks To One Passenger
We all know life is full of ups and downs, but we never know when the downs will transition into ups. It was a regular Monday for an Uber driver, a single mother named Latonya Young.
She suddenly had her life do a complete 180-degree turn, and it was all thanks to a very special passenger.
Latonya Young is an ambitious single mother of three who seems to have a life filled with positivity, a passionate career and love for herself and her children. Latonya lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her three sons.
She had her first child when she was 16, and she chose to put her family first from that moment on. Her decision was not easy, as she had to sacrifice her education.
From Sacrifice to Success
Latonya dropped out of high school as a teenager in the early ‘90s but never gave up on education. As soon as her sons were a bit older, Latonya decided to go back. She wanted to set an excellent example for her sons and accomplish her personal goals.
In 2007, she pursued her GED, rounded up her high school education, and set her sights on the next level; college.
Parenting can be full of challenges, and being a single parent is much more complicated. Latonya always put her children first no matter what, so even though going to college was still on her radar, she felt she needed to focus on working to provide and take care of her family.
Latonya found a way to make time for her studies and her family; she enrolled in cosmetology school.
The Determined Journey
After gaining knowledge in the cosmetology field, she was able to have a job as a hairdresser. However, Latonya would not settle in this career path; something else was on her mind.
For the several years that she worked as a hairdresser, Latonya was also trying to get ready to pursue something more ambitious than cosmetology.
“I wasn’t fully satisfied because I felt I had not accomplished a goal that needed to be accomplished. I didn’t want to stop there,” Latonya shared while explaining her desire to attend college.
Unfortunately, being a single parent started to take its toll. Beginning the college journey was not a problem for Latonya, but she could not afford to start. Her financial struggles prevented her from enrolling in university for a long time.
Empowering Dreams and Building a Better Future
In 2010, when she was in her 30s, the hard-working single mother knew she was ready to advance her education. Latonya was interested in criminal justice. She wanted something that combined both law and crime.
When she finally saved up and applied, she got accepted into the Criminal Justice program at the Perimeter College at Georgia State University. However, Latonya was soon faced with something that would put her in a difficult position; the situation forced her to change her life plans instantly.
A Stroke of Bad Luck
Shortly after Latonya started classes, she had more financial troubles. While she was excited to have started college and to be studying something she was passionate about, she was struggling. Working while learning is always stressful but working while studying and caring for three sons is even trickier.
Her school actually put a hold on her account and wouldn’t allow her to continue taking classes until she paid her balance.
A Rocky Path to Academic Achievement
Latonya was frustrated and disappointed when she learned her account was put on hold. She had worked hard, waited so long, and sacrificed so much to get to college. Latonya didn’t give up, though. She talked to the university’s administration and financial department. The amount due for her courses was just under $700.
Latonya hoped to find a way to continue going to school even though she couldn’t pay the amount in full at the time. The University, however, did not accept her payment terms.
The Sinking Sand of Debt
“I asked the school if I could pay the amount monthly, and they said they didn’t do payment arrangements, so I stopped going to school at that point,” Latonya explained. The only thing standing between her and her education was an exact amount of $693.
That was not the end of her woes; however, Latonya had gotten into a severe car accident and had to undergo two surgeries. Footing medical bills was added to her list of financial problems.
The Power of Perseverance
By 2015, the dedicated mother decided to find a new way to make more money. Since her hairdressing job wasn’t as busy, she decided to take another job. She would be a hairdresser during the day and a rideshare driver for Uber and Lyft during the evening and nighttime.
Months passed, but Latonya still couldn’t afford her classes. “Every time I got ready to pay the money, my kids needed something,” Latonya said.
When Destiny Takes the Wheel
Latonya picked up extra shifts whenever she could, hoping she would one day go back to study. Little did she know that some good luck was just around the corner.
It was a typical day when Latonya got a request to pick someone up at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium after an Atlanta United FC soccer game. Latonya felt she was lucky because the event caused a surge in prices. When there is a surge, drivers earn more than they usually would.
A Life-changing 20-minute Ride
As luck would have it, the man she picked up from the game was as talkative as she was. He seemed to be happy and communicative and had a good vibe. They started talking, and Latonya began to open up about her life.
She shared her struggles with her rider, Kevin Esch. The 20-minute ride was enjoyable for both driver and rider, but it wasn’t until the very end of the ride that Kevin did something truly remarkable.
When Strangers Become Supporters
“Latonya and I connected almost immediately when she picked me up. I was having a pretty bad day. She turned my mood around and made me feel better,” Kevin explained.
Kevin appreciated how Latonya was able to turn his mood around and felt like doing the same for her. “I got to hear her life story, and I found out that she had some bills due, so I figured I would give her a little bit of a tip,” Kevin said.
A Generous Gesture
What seemed like “a little bit of a tip” to Kevin was a big thing for Latonya. After the end of the ride, Latonya dropped him off at his destination. She received the payment receipt for the ride but noticed something odd with the total balance.
The application stated that Kevin had left her a $150 tip. Latonya was in a daze as she stared at her phone’s screen.
A Fare to Remember
“I was so happy to get the tip. I was like, ‘Okay, I’m going home now. I’m not working anymore; I’m going home to my kids.” Latonya revealed her initial reaction. However, Kevin was not done. He had one more surprise for Latonya after their car ride together.
He sent her a picture of a receipt and a text message that read, “You are all set! The hold should be lifted off your account.”
The Power of Compassion
“I got a text message from Mr. Kevin, and the text message was the receipt from the balance that I owe,” Latonya explained.
The receipt showed the paid-in-full balance of $693 to Georgia State University. “I felt like I hit the lottery. I mean, literally, I felt like I hit the lottery,” Latonya expressed her joy. She was ecstatic and filled with so much gratitude.
A Grateful Heart
“When I talked to Mr. Kevin, he said, ‘Well, it was only $700; I said, ‘Well, it felt like a million to me,” Latonya recounted.
Latonya’s appreciation could not be described in words. She was excited that she could finally start up her classes again and finish her degree. She wanted to make Kevin proud and was determined to repay him for helping her. Kevin wanted nothing in return. He only wished to be at her graduation.
From Ridesharing to Milestones
In December 2019, Latonya graduated from Georgia State University, and Kevin was there. Once the media caught wind of this incredible story, Kevin and Latonya were in for an even bigger surprise.
Ellen DeGeneres invited Kevin and Latonya to share their story on her show. “What a great story this is.” Ellen addressed. She then explained that Honey Nut Cheerios has a special program that awards kind people for doing good. The same way Kevin did for Latonya.
The Ripple Effect of Kindness
Ellen DeGeneres and Honey Nut Cheerios surprised the two of them. They rewarded Kevin with an all-expense paid trip to anywhere he wanted. Latonya received two gifts from two different organizations.
She first had a personal video sent to her by one of her admired heroes, the New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees. The team also invited Latonya to watch any game of her choice. Ellen and Honey Nut Cheerios presented Latonya with a check for $25,000 to pay off her student debt and loans.