News / Toronto

Homeless to Harvard: Students around the world find inspiration in graduate's crowdfunding technique

Toni Morgan, who was once a homeless, high-school dropout, raised $95,000 for tuition and school expenses by crowdfunding — now other Ivy League hopefuls are doing the same.

Toni Morgan was accepted into Harvard to complete her masters of education, and crowdfunded to raise money for tuition and living expenses.

Melissa Renwick / Torstar News Service

Toni Morgan was accepted into Harvard to complete her masters of education, and crowdfunded to raise money for tuition and living expenses.

When Toni Morgan landed an acceptance to Harvard University and went viral, crowdfunding $95,000 to cover tuition and expenses, it was a shock for the non-profit organization worker, who was once a homeless, high-school drop-out.

Two years after making it to campus and one year since graduating from the Ivy League school’s masters of education program, she’s still being surprised, but now, it’s by students she meets and hears from online.

The students from all corners of the globe say her story inspired them to crowdfund their way to the Ivy League school and other top universities they thought would be out of reach because of expensive tuition fees.

“It is really humbling, but it also speaks to what is happening in education,” Morgan says. “We are running out of ways to get money for the education we are told we should be able to get.”

Among those Morgan says have thanked her for the crowdfunding inspiration are a Harvard student whose mother gave birth to her in jail, an at-risk youth program director at an Alabama ministry, who raised part of the $40,000 he needed for Harvard’s mid-careers masters in public administration program and Paige Woods, a student on low-income who crowdfunded to go to Oxford University.

Woods didn’t get her full total, but landed some money and found a family that sponsored her through crowdfunding.

“I wouldn’t have had the same reach without (Morgan),” she says. “I didn’t think I had a story to tell until talking to her and she said, ‘no, go for it.’ She is living out her truth and resonating with people.”

The latest Morgan says has followed in her footsteps is Isaiah Wellington-Lynn whose
crowdfunding page says he grew up in a single-parent home with a “reduced income” in a “deprived” area of London, England. He raised £64,000 ($109,430 Canadian) within a month to cover Harvard’s Visiting Undergraduate program, after a scholarship he nabbed fell through.

In the wake of going viral, Morgan’s heard from many people with less than altruistic reasons for crowdfunding wanting her help, so she’s proud to have made a lasting impact on people who have faced genuine hardships.

“They are all really deserving, which is really nice,” says Morgan. “These are all people who share the same values as I do about making sure our communities are taken care of and doing it in a way that is as selfless as it can be.”

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