TODAY   |  August 19, 2013

Fundraising takes teen from homeless to Howard U.

Nineteen-year-old James Ward grew up in Los Angeles’ Skid Row neighborhood; on Monday, he will begin his freshman year at Howard University. After a friend at the LA’s Union Rescue created a website to raise fund for Ward, his tuition for the first year was attained in just seven days.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> finding a new home in the nation's capitol. a cross country journey to attend college driven by determination, and acts of kindness. here's miguel almaguer.

>> on howard universities historic campus a new freshman finds himself a long way from home.

>> i want to come back for christ.

>> 19-year-old james ward left los angeles friday saying his good-byes in one of the many places he used to call home.

>> wow.

>> reporter: james shared a single room with his mother, younger brother, and sister and another family.

>> i would stare at the stars in the sky.

>> reporter: he looked down on the streets of skid row . for four years james and his family were homeless.

>> it was a very different situation. i wasn't prepared for it.

>> reporter: when he wasn't in the shelter, there were nights with no place to go.

>> i would try to hide it from people but now as i have gotten older i realized that i shouldn't have been embarrassed to begin with.

>> reporter: avoiding to pitfall of the streets he found the shelter because of his mother.

>> i was down on my luck and i fell to her and she picked me right back up.

>> reporter: james excelled in high school . it was his ticket out of this place. with with grants, loans and scholarships, 70% of his expenses to howard university were covered but he was still short $14,000.

>> he's not looking for a handout. he's just looking for a chance.

>> reporter: at the union rescue mission he met volunteer jessica sutherland. she had been homeless and when she learned james couldn't afford to go to college, she decided to help.

>> james is an amazing kid that has persevered and excelled through some of the hardest circumstances you can think of. and despite it all, he only sees the positive of it.

>> reporter: jessica launched the james find. a website that asks strangers for donations. after a tweet from teach for america and a few plugs from celebrities, in just seven days, jessica hit her goal. james could afford howard this year.

>> i didn't know what to feel. i didn't believe it. it felt too surreal. it was like a dream.

>> reporter: darren leach is one of his mentors.

>> he's going to do phenomenal things. anything he puts his mind to he'll dominate.

>> with enough to pay for his freshman year he needs to raise money to graduate. he left skid row behind but leaves it with a message for those that come after him.

>> no matter who you are or where you come from or what circumstances you have there's always someone out there to help you or someone out there who you can help.

>> reporter: last friday the 19-year-old boarded a plane bound for college. next montday when he starts class, he'll be the first in his family to ever attend because of one friend and hundreds of strangers, james ward 's dream is now a reality. he's gone from homeless to howard . for today, miguel almaguer, nbc news los angeles .

>>> and they have been doing a little more addition and the total of funds raised for james ward will cover