By Joelle Goldstein / People.com
January 03, 2020
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Credit: Spencer Platt / Getty

An Atlanta Uber driver has one of her passengers to thank for helping her achieve a lifelong dream — graduating college.

Latonya Young never expected that Kevin Esch would have such a large impact on her life after picking him up after an Atlanta United soccer game.

“This one changed my life,” Young, 43, told CNN affiliate WSB-TV of Esch’s random act of kindness. “That one ride.”

During the trip, Young, a single mother who works as a hairstylist during the day and an Uber driver at night, disclosed that she had to put her education on hold multiple times in order to raise her three sons.

First, she dropped out of high school at age 16 to raise her first child. Then in 2011, Young had to drop out of Georgia State University due to an unpaid balance of $700 — a fee she was unable to afford.

“Every time I got ready to pay the money, my kids needed something,” she recalled to the outlet. “I said, ‘Okay, I’ll just wait.'”

“I told him I was a hairstylist [during the day] but the hair business is slow, so I planned on working that weekend to pay my way back into school,” Young added to CNN Full Circle.

That all changed a few days after their encounter when Esch decided to go to Georgia State University and pay off Young’s balance, unbeknownst to the single mother.

The college later called Young and notified her that she was now able to register for classes, all thanks to Esch’s random act of kindness.

“I was literally blown away,” she told WSB. “A stranger has never done that — or done anything like that — for me.”

No longer in debt, Young was able to finish out her schooling. During that time, she also kept in touch with Esch, who Young said was her main source of inspiration to push forward.

“When he paid the balance, I had to do this for him,” Young explained to WSB. “I maintained my grades. As and Bs. Just trying to do everything to make sure he knows I appreciate him.”

In December, Young finally earned her associate degree in criminal justice. With her family — and Esch — by her side, Young walked across the stage and received her diploma.

Ahead of the graduation ceremony, the pair took photos together on campus — Young standing proud in her cap and gown — which were shared on her Facebook page.

“You never know who God will send to change your life” she wrote beside the images. “All thanks to the man upstairs…I had my son at a young age.. dropped out of high school...but It’s not how you start in life… it’s how you finish!!️ I’m encouraging you all that need an extra push not to give up.”

Later this month, the single mother will return to classes and begin working towards her bachelor’s degree. Her goal is to one day become a lawyer.

As for Esch, he says the selfless gesture was a no-brainer.

“There was something about Latonya that just — she resonates with me and we developed an incredible friendship now and I am incredibly proud of what she’s done,” he told CNN.

“I could’ve bought new clothes or I could’ve helped someone out,” he went on. “And what has come back to me has come back a hundredfold and I would do it 1,000 times over.”