Sometimes in a world filled with hatred, violence, war, and boys who wear brown shoes with a black belt, it’s nice to know that there really are still good people left on this planet.
Cassie Wessely, a 19-year-old student at Vanderbilt University who is about to enter her second year of college, has not had an easy life by any stretch of the imagination. Five years ago, she lost her 24-year-old brother to an overdose. Earlier this year, her father lost his job. Then, in an unthinkable turn of horrible events, three weeks before Cassie was set to start her freshman year, her mother killed herself after struggling with the death of Cassie’s brother.
Try dealing with that and having to go to school. But not only did Cassie have all those burdens to deal with–she also worked through the summer, earned a scholarship, AND received loans, but still fell $24,000 short of paying for college. She lost her financial aid that she received from her mother’s income because she lost her mother’s residential custody when she committed suicide. Things were looking pretty bleak for Cassie.
Five days ago, she launched a GoFundMe GoFundMe campaign to try to make up the difference, and what happened next blew her away. The campaign has generated nearly $50,000. Most of those donations came in small amounts, from $5 to $50 apiece, with hundreds of people contributing. As of this writing, she is up to $49,596 from 1,106 people.
This is a beautiful story, but it says a lot about how truly and completely messed up the system of higher education is in this country. College has become so unaffordable that it’s become almost an impossible dream for most people unless they mortgage their futures and sign their lives away on the dotted line to banks, credit unions, and other lenders that will bleed them dry through their early professional lives and beyond.
Financial aid is the worst; Cassie lost her mom and her father lost his job, but they still calculate a package of aid based on when he was working, and then decided she doesn’t merit as much help. Shame on them for being completely blind and ignorant to people who are truly in need.
On her fundraising page, she expressed her gratitude and surprise for the generosity of friends, family, and people who learned about her efforts through the Vanderbilt community who contributed to her “Please Help Me Stay at Vanderbilt” campaign.
“I had absolutely no idea that there would be this kind of a response, and I am still shell shocked,” Wessely wrote. “I am so thankful to each and every one of you and so proud to be part of the Vanderbilt community.”
But why should she have even gotten to that point? She was basically reduced to begging for her education so she could have a future in biomedical engineering, something she has a passion for. Why should she have to sing for her supper when there are certainly people who cheat the system to get ahead, and, furthermore, a system that’s DESIGNED to be gamed and cheated because major private colleges and universities have presented American families with no-win scenarios that are designed to bleed them dry and feed their coffers?
Douglas L. Christiansen, Vanderbilt’s vice provost for enrollment and dean of admissions, told the “Today Show,” “We have been made aware of the student’s online initiative and are reaching out to her to determine to what extent her financial situation might have changed.”
Yeah, where were you BEFORE she and her story got famous? Where were you when she was faced with the reality of not having a mother, a brother, and possibly, thanks to an interrupted education, no future? Tell me that, Mr. Vice Provost. Tell me what you would have said to this girl unless she garnered national attention and raised money through the kindness of strangers and the grace of God.
Thankfully, Cassie is a lot less cynical than yours truly:
“There isn’t a good way to convey how thankful I am to everyone, how surprised I was, how blessed I feel, how much this has motivated me to not disappoint anyone, so that I can pay it forward in the future,” Wessely said.
Cassie heads back to Vanderbilt to start her second year on August 20. She said she dreams of working for a large biomedical company one day and contributing to major medical advancements. She wants to do something GOOD for mankind, when life has been so cruel to her.
There are truly good people left in this world, and for that, I’ll rest easy another day.
[via Today Show]