Society

Strangers Raise Money To Help Student Stay In College After Family Tragedy

| by Jonathan Wolfe

Crowdfunding is a powerful financial tool that has enabled thousands of people to fund projects and needs they would not have been able to on their own.

The latest example of the power of crowdfunding comes from Tennessee, where a 19-year-old caught in the middle of a tragedy has seen strangers fund her college education.

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Like most students her age, Cassie Wessely was thrilled last year when the time came for her to head off to Vanderbilt University for her first year of college. But just three weeks before she was scheduled to leave, her life changed forever. Her mother committed suicide.

Wessely had funding to cover her first year at school, but was left in a serious financial bind for her second year. Adding on to the stress was the fact that her father had recently lost his job. Despite a summer job, savings, a scholarship and financial aid from Vanderbilt, she would need almost $25,000 to pay her tuition. Vanderbilt, a private school, can cost upwards of $60,000 a year.

On July 5, Wessely created a GoFundMe page to help cover her tuition funds. She was seeking $25,000. But, as we’ve seen so many times with crowdfunding, a large number of small donations can add up in a huge way.

As of this writing, over 1,000 donors have chipped in for Wessely’s cause and raised an incredible $48,000.

“I never expected so much support from people I’ve never met before,” Wessely told the Tennessean. "It is overwhelming, but in a good way. It was just so touching, and I'm so grateful and I was so blown away by it all."

Since she exceeded her original $25,000 goal, Wessely says all of the surplus will go towards paying her tuition at the school in future years. Yesterday, exactly one year after her mother’s death, Wessely posted a message to her donors thanking them for their generosity.

Here’s the message:

"Seeing as today marks one year since my mom has been gone, I thought it would be appropriate to thank you all again from the bottom of my heart. Today was of course very difficult, but I cannot thank you enough for gifting me with the blessing of having another year at Vanderbilt to look forward to! It is such a beautiful gift on this day and I can't help but be thankful. Also, one of the number one questions that I keep receiving is "what are you going to do with the extra money?" There was never any hesitation in knowing that it would all be going towards the next three years at Vandy, instead of solely this year. Again, thank you very much, and it's all of YOU who are inspiring to ME!"

Sources: The Tennessean, MailOnline, GoFundMe