44-year-old single mother of three Latonya Young, just graduated college last week with a bachelor’s degree—and she says one of her Uber passengers made her accomplishment possible.
Young, who is now the proud recipient of a degree in criminal justice from Georgia State’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, hopes that people can learn from the kindness of Kevin Esch—the Uber passenger who gave back in a big way.
Young met Esch three years ago when she picked him up in Atlanta. They started chatting right away, sharing stories about their lives and talking about the hardships of divorce. During the car ride, Esch also learned that Young wanted to be the first member of her family to graduate from college—but she was struggling to pay tuition as well as other bills.
When Young dropped Esch off, he tipped her $150, which was enough to cover the utility bill she needed to take care of. He also said Young made him a promise.
“She promised me that she would go back to school,” Esch said. It was the start of an unexpected friendship.
“He motivated me,” Young said. “I had my mind made up that I wanted to go back to school.”
It wasn’t easy. Young had a balance from eight years prior— $693—and couldn’t afford to pay it. Without paying the balance, she was unable to register. She told Esch about the roadblock and he immediately paid it off without telling her.
“I was in a place to be able to do it, and it was the right thing to do,” Esch said.
Young worked hard, but it seemed like every time she saved money, something would happen to set her back: “My kids needed stuff. I put my education on hold to take care of my family,” she said. But she knew she needed to achieve her goal.
She eventually received her associate’s degree in 2019—and Esch was there to applaud her from the stands. “It meant everything to me that Kevin was there,” Young said.
Young kept going. She was now working as a substitute teacher and a hairstylist. She also benefited from the Jeanette Ranking Women’s Scholarship Fund, which offers financial support to women over 35 from low-income backgrounds.
“The funding helped me get through the hardships,” Young said.
And when Young graduated with her bachelor’s degree on May 6th, Esch was once again in the stands to cheer her on.
“I’m proud that she followed through with what she said she would do for herself,” he said. “She is such an inspiration to me, but also to so many people who are in the same position as her…She’s got an incredible future ahead of her.”
Featured Image: Kevin Esch