Kevonna Stevens had graduated at the top of her class at Perry High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. That’s something she credits to one of her high school teachers, Jason Boll. Because of her impressive academics, Stevens was accepted into Temple University in Philadelphia, and headed there for her first semester of college.

Things started off well as Stevens, who’s the first in her family to attend college, was achieving high marks with all A’s and B’s at Temple. This was news she was happy to pass along to her former teacher, and he was certainly proud. Unfortunately, Stevens also had some bad news to pass along, saying “I might not be able to stay (at Temple) due to financial reasons.”

Stevens was able to take out student loans and had both grants and scholarships that helped to cover her tuition, but the problem was trying to afford housing. Stevens tried to register for classes in her second semester, but was denied until her student housing bill was paid for. Boll was stunned to hear the news, and wasn’t about to let Stevens drop out of college for such a minor reason beyond her control. “I thought, there’s no way that this is the end of the story,” he said. “She really is an amazing person who has worked really hard and deserves some breaks.”

Perry High School Teacher Jason Boll
Perry High School Teacher Jason Boll

Boll decided to start a fundraiser on GoFundMe called “Help Kevonna Stay At Temple”, setting a goal of $7,500. On the page, Boll said “I met Kevonna two years ago when she was in an AP Language class I was teaching. It didn’t take me long to realize that Kevonna was the kind of person who pushed through anything to make the most of her opportunities. And unfortunately, as life goes, she had to push through more than some others.” He explained that her parents had split up while in high school and she had to move to another neighborhood after her house burned down, forcing her to ride a bus one hour each way to and from school to be there by 7 a.m. for class.

Stevens didn’t have any housing until two weeks before the school year even started. She had thought that it was included with her tuition and the scholarships, and had to scramble to get a dorm room. Stevens said that “My mom said, ‘I don’t know what to do. I didn’t go through this.’” That’s when Stevens texted Boll saying “I can’t take out any loans without a worthy co-signer and no one in my family has good credit so I’ve been getting denied for loans.”

Overall, Kevonna needed $3,500 to cover the costs for the semester, but the goal was set to cover an extra semester so that Kevonna could have more time to prepare for future semesters and save money. Boll added that “I wish I could cut a check for $7,000 and help Kevonna figure out her scholarships for next year. She is that kind of person. She will not fail. I’m confident of that. In fact, she has overcome harder things than tuition bills. She will find a way to overcome this.”

It didn’t even take an entire week for the story about Kevonna Stevens to make the rounds on the internet, and many were happy to donate, helping to reach the initial goal. Boll and Stevens were stunned by the support, with Boll posting an update that said “This has been an amazing show of support. Now – if you know of any scholarships or are connected to any help for our students, you can share that….All of you are amazing!”

People had started to ask Temple University about the situation, prompting the college to respond. A spokesman said that Temple is “committed to its mission of expanding access to an affordable world-class education for talented students of all backgrounds. We work with students to provide information about all sources of financial aid and support them throughout this process. Our goal is to make sure students get a great education and leave with as little debt as possible.”

Stevens thankfully won’t have to worry about going into debt over the next few semesters thanks to Boll and the generosity of those that don’t even know Stevens on a personal level. Stevens said that the fundraiser has left her feeling “very grateful and blessed” and that “It was amazing to see everyone coming together for someone they barely know.” Many have left comments along with their donations, with a lot of the messages using the word “inspiring,” which seems very appropriate for someone like Stevens who has overcome adversity many times in her career.