Stranger pledges to pay future college costs for 26 kindergartners

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An entire kindergarten class at Rio Vista Elementary School in Anaheim, California, has a free golden ticket to college, thanks to the generosity of a complete stranger.

Marty Burbank, an attorney and Navy veteran from Fullerton, California, went from stranger to hero after he pledged $1 million to pay the college tuition of all 26 kindergartners, The Orange County Register reports.

The 51-year-old Burbank and his wife, Seon Chun-Burbank, a professor at Vanguard University, had plans to buy a new 40-foot sailboat just a few short months ago. But that plan changed after Burbank heard a December church sermon on giving.

"Sailing has been a big part of my life," Burbank, who began sailing at age 3, told the OC Register. "(But) the boat seemed like a real selfish thing to me at that point. This is something significant that I think is going to impact a lot more people than just me."

Burbank's offer includes funding two years of community college and two years at a California state university (or the equivalent if they plan on attending a different college), plus money for books for teacher Tessa Ashton's entire class of kindergartners – the Class of 2032.

Burbank set up a private foundation for the kids' college funds, which he plans to contribute to each year until $1 million is reached. He said he will delay his retirement and he's scrapped his dream of purchasing a new boat.

"I'd rather not have a boat and get these kids through school," he told the OC Register. "Maybe one day they'll buy me a boat."

Burbank said all the kids have to do is draw a picture or write an essay each year about what getting a college education will mean for them and their families, CNN Money explains.

"I'm a strong believer in visualizing your goals, and this way they'll be thinking about this each year for the next 12 years," Burbank told CNN Money.

Burbank knew Ashton from church. He had previously donated his time as well as several gifts to Ashton's school, including a power washer, more than 1,000 notebooks and a pallet of granola bars, according to the OC Register.

Ashton's entire kindergarten class speaks Spanish at home. CNN Money said they started kindergarten knowing very little English. Ashton said she talks to them about college every day.

"I tell them that they need to sit and listen, because that's a skill they'll need when they go to a place called college," she said.

The families of the kindergartners told the OC Register that they are grateful – and overwhelmed – by Burbank's generosity.

"May God bless him always for helping people who truly need his help," Silvia Escobar, whose son Roniel Garzo is in Ashton's class, said in Spanish. "There are no words," she said of Burbank's kindness.

What do you think of Burbank's philanthropy? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

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