Alondra Carmona has dreamed of attending Barnard College, a selective college for women in New York City, since she was 15 years old. But the high school senior recently gave what she’d saved for her education to her mom, to keep her family from being evicted from their Houston apartment.
“My mom is so hard working, so when she told me she lost her job, it wasn’t difficult for me because I knew she needed the help,” she told CNN. “I just didn’t want her to feel bad and she didn’t want me to stress out.”
Passionate about medicine and science, Carmona had attended a six-week research internship for cervical cancer at Rice University, which solidified her decision to pursue an M.D./PhD. Her dreams came true in December 2020, when she received a letter of acceptance from Barnard. She began saving with the $1,000 she earned from her internship and had added another $800 from her part-time job at Chipotle.
However, finances became strained for Carmona’s family when her mom, Martha Zepeda, broke her ankle and could not work for some time. As Zepeda is a single mother of three daughters, money became even tighter when she lost her job as a longshoreman at the Port of Houston three months ago. Not wanting her girls to worry, Zepeda hid the news from her children.
The family discovered the truth when they arrived home and found the landlord had locked both the front and back doors to their two-bedroom apartment. The $800 a month rent was behind by $2,000.
Carmona didn’t hesitate to give her mom the money she had saved so they could stay in the apartment. However, her mom’s loss of income left the teen worried about college. She received a $60,000 grant from Barnard, and although she greatly appreciated it, Carmona knew it wouldn’t even cover her first year, especially with her mother out of work.
“There’s no way we were going to be able to pay that every year,” Carmona told CNN.
So, she decided to ask for help.
“As much as I dream of going to Barnard College, it is not looking promising right now,” she wrote on her GoFundMe page. “I am turning to this as a last resort because Barnard will not be able to change my financial aid package. I am absolutely in love with Barnard and it has been my dream since I was 15 years old.”
Thousands of strangers came forward with encouraging words and financial donations. To date, Carmona has raised more than $170,000, which she says will cover all four years of her program and help her mom pay the rent until she finds work again.
“I am incredibly thankful and crying right now,” she wrote in an update on GoFundMe. “I can’t even describe how grateful I am. I have no words. Everyone is so supportive and loving, thank you from the bottom of my heart… You have all been a part of my dream and will make it possible.”
Carmona told CNN her family didn’t realize there was a federal moratorium on evictions through March. Because it’s a public health issue, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a temporary halt in evictions in January. The evictions hold is designed to help families like Carmona’s that have been hard hit economically by the coronavirus pandemic.