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Life hasn’t been easy for Tonika Morgan.

Going in and out of homeless shelters as a teenager to escape her unstable home life, she took on odd jobs and unsteady work just to make ends meet. Eventually though, the instability caught up with her and she dropped out of high school with poor grades and an abysmal attendance record.

“I had been kicked out a couple of times, but I decided not to go back because I was embarrassed to admit that I had no place to live,” Morgan told the Toronto Star. “The last time I was kicked out, my vice principal turned to me and said that I would never have a university degree.”

Those words were enough to change Morgan’s life forever. Determined to prove her former vice principal wrong, she found a home with the Young Women’s Christian Association and quickly started a job as a telemarketer to raise money for a university education. She later applied to Ryerson University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts for equity and diversity studies.

In all, that process took her 10 years.

While gradually building up her education, however, Morgan became a project manager at the Jane and Finch Community Centre and also worked with the City of Toronto’s youth justice program. She even began teaching at Centennial College.

Tonika Morgan

Morgan (far left) about to receive the YWCA’s Young Woman of Distinction Award, 2005. 

After 18 months of self-motivation and academic preparation, she was starting to set her sights on higher education. And what would be better than getting it from one of the most prestigious universities in the world? As you might expect, her big dreams were countered with equally large doubts –the voices in her head told her “You’re not like the rest of them,” “You’re not smart enough,” and “They’ll never let you in”.

On Jan. 5, she silenced those voices and boldly hit “submit.”

When the acceptance letter finally arrived, she couldn’t believe it. The news stunned her friends and mother, who excitedly hugged and cried with her.

There was only one challenge left: Coming up with the $71,000 USD required to actually attend the school. It’s not an arbitrary number either – it’s the lofty price tag the Ivy League institution churned out for tuition and living costs. For that reason, Morgan has set up a GoFundMe page in the hopes of crowdfunding her way to Massachusetts. So far, she’s raised more than $47,000 in one month.

“I’m asking for your help because I wasn’t supposed to be here,” she says in a video posted on the page. “People like me aren’t supposed to make it.”

“I will live on a park bench if it means I can attend this school.”

And that, friends, is someone who deserves the best education the world has to offer.