College, and its steep financial requirements, can be difficult in the best of circumstances.
Affording tuition is a huge challenge in itself, and many students go deeply into debt even with help from their families.
Then, of course, comes the actual college part: finding the time, energy and motivation necessary to balance rigorous coursework with the job(s) that foot the bill, while still occasionally finding an hour or two to eat, sleep or socialize.
That’s what makes Fred Barley’s story even more impressive.
Although this Gordon State College student had nothing to his name but a couple of gallons of water and a borrowed bicycle, he gave everything he had to the pursuit of his higher education.
And happily, the small town of Barnesville, Georgia, showed him just how much they admired his determination — to the tune of gifts, a job and a crowdfunding campaign worth more than $184,000.
A Small Town’s Generosity Towards a Homeless College Student
On July 9, Barnesville police officers Dicky Carreker and Maria Gebelein approached a tent pitched near a Gordon State College parking lot. As commanded, 19-year-old Barley came out with his hands up — holding his Gordon State I.D card.
He told the officers his heartbreaking story.
Carrying nothing but his tent, two gallons of water and a box of cereal, Barley had ridden a borrowed bike 50 miles to get to campus early, hoping to find a job before classes started on August 5. He had no money, so he planned to camp until the dorms opened.
The ride had taken him six hours, and he’d spent all of that Saturday in search of a job.
Shocked and inspired, Carreker and Gebelein handed Barley the money in their wallets and each paid for a night’s stay for Barley at the local Sun Inn motel, reports Barnesville’s Herald-Gazette.
That was just the start of the town’s massive outpouring of generosity.
Moved, Carreker posted the story on Facebook… and Barnesville’s citizens responded, purchasing Barley food, school supplies and clothing. He even got a new mountain bike, and “has a couple community members working together to get him a car,” according to the Herald-Gazette.
Better yet, local pizza shop owner Debbie Adamson gave him a job as a dishwasher — before she even knew his name.
“I created a position for him before he walked in my door,” she told WSB-TV News, Atlanta. “I didn’t know his name. I didn’t know the color of his skin. I didn’t care. I’ve been there so I guess I had a soft spot for anyone who is that determined to succeed in life.”
Best of all, Gordon State College agreed to open its dorm early so Barley could move inside.
It’s safe to say Barley will have a great shot at fulfilling his dreams and attending medical school — a bright future for the second-semester biology major.
He couldn’t be more grateful: “I was shocked by how much support people will give,” Barley says.
“Even people from across the country that I’ve never met just wanted to help so much in my life. I was just so shocked and grateful.”
And considering 2016’s rash of distressing headlines, we’re grateful, too. Turns out there is still such a thing as good news.
Your Turn: Did you go to crazy lengths to afford and complete college? Let us know in the comments!
Jamie Cattanach is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. Her writing has also been featured at The Write Life, Word Riot and elsewhere. Find @JamieCattanach on Twitter to wave hello.