From homeless to Harvard, how a woman crowdfunded her tuition

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By BANU IBRAHIM

To say Tonika Morgan has had a rough life is an understatement. When she was just 14, the Toronto-native left home only to find herself homeless for 4 years, sleeping in shelters and on benches. On top of that, she was kicked out of high school for lack of attendance.

Morgan quickly turned her life around, going back to college and attending Ryerson, one of the most prominent universities in Canada, and founding the non-profit organization The Beat Academy.

But flash forward to present day when she faces her biggest challenge yet: paying for a college education. The 32 year old was accepted into a one-years master's program at Harvard but lacked the resources to pay for her hefty bill of approximately $71,000 (including the $43,280 tuition rate). As she explains, "There are no scholarships for people like me to attend Harvard University-probably because nobody ever expects people (formerly homeless with an unusual academic path and too young to be considered mid-career) like me to attend a school like Harvard." Being an international student was an impossible hurdle to overcome, as no financial aid or scholarships would be available to her.

TONIKA MORGAN-09/13/07--Seven years ago Tonika Morgan was a homeless 17-year-old living in a shelter. Morgan had dropped out of high school and her future looked bleak. Today Tonika is in her final year of a BA at Ryerson, holds down a full-time job as a project manager at the Jane/ Finch Community and Family Centre and her future seems to have few limits, she says. Part of that amazing transformation is due to a remarkable month-long course offered by the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto called the Bridge to Business Program. The course serves as sort of a management training boot camp for those committed to learning the skills and theory of management without taking an MBA. Thursday September 13, 2007. (Tara Walton/Toronto Star) tlw (Photo by Tara Walton/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Joining the ranks of other desperate college students, Morgan built herself a crowdfunding page on the popular site GoFundMe, hoping that the generosity of others could help her reach her goal. After local media publicized the page last week, nearly $93,000 dollars has been fundraised.

But Tonika Morgan knows that being able to go to her Harvard is not without the help of others who are helping her fulfill a dream of a lifetime.

"I have to say that this has been quite emotional for me. I have shared hugs, tears of joy and laughter with the beautiful souls who have noticed me on the street. I've never felt more supported and connected to anyone the way I have felt since this campaign started."

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