Fred Barley was living in a tent with his belongings in two duffel bags and a box of cereal to ration over the next few weeks.
Responding to a trespassing call on July 9, campus police at Gordon State College in Barnesville, Georgia, asked him to leave his makeshift home.
But the situation changed once the officers heard his story: The 19-year-old had biked more than six hours from Conyers, Georgia, to register for his second semester at Gordon State. The dorms didn’t open until August, but Barley felt his college campus was the safest place to stay.
The biology major, who plans to become a doctor, told CNN affiliate WSB that police officers said they can’t let him stay there, but took him to a local motel and paid for his next two nights.
One of the police officer’s wives posted the teen’s story on Facebook. Hundreds of people responded, eager to help the young college student.
One supporter, Casey Blaney, partnered with the motel owner to pay for Barley’s stay until he can move into his dorm room, which the college is allowing him to do on Monday.
Debbie Adamson, the owner of a local pizzeria, gave Barley a job.
“I didn’t know his name. I didn’t know the color of his skin. I didn’t care,” Adamson told WSB. “I’ve been there, so I guess I had a soft spot for anyone who is that determined to succeed.”
The wave of supporters donated school supplies and clothes for Barley. A GoFundMe page created on July 12 has already raised nearly $173,000.
“I was shocked by how much support people will give …. Even people from across the country,” Barley said.
In a video message posted on Barley’s behalf, he promised to repay his supporters by keeping up his grades. He ends the video with a simple, sincere statement: “I love you all, and I want to make all of you guys proud.”