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How compassion, not just free tuition, helped one Ohio student achieve his college dreams

Compassion helps student achieve his college dreams
How compassion, not just free tuition, helped one Ohio student achieve his college dreams 02:46

Toledo, Ohio — A little over four years ago, seniors at Scott High School in Toledo, Ohio, walked into their school gym for an assembly, and then received the surprise of a lifetime.

"If you're sitting here in this room today, tuition, room and board, books and fees will be paid for you, and you will go to college for free," philanthropist and businessman Pete Kadens told them back in February 2020.

Kadens had started a nonprofit, called HOPE Toledo, for students like Chris Rowland.

Rowland said he could have never afforded college, especially after his mother, Abena, lost her job, and his father died in a house fire.

"It's a lot that I've been through," Rowland told CBS News this week.

Then, shortly after starting college, Rowland's brother, Jo'Von, was murdered. 

"My grades took a dwindle," Rowland said. "They went completely downhill."

Rowland quit school, struggled to hold a job and got in with the wrong crowd. 

Although he gave up on Hope Toledo, not all hope was lost.

From that first day in the gym, to now, Kadens remained in Rowland's life. Through all the missteps and blown opportunities, Kadens has been there, mentoring, lecturing, feeding and fathering.

Because of Kaden's ever-presence, today Rowland is back on track. He just finished his freshman year at Lourdes University in Sylvania, Ohio.

"You know what I realized along this journey…if all we do is give them money, they're not going to make it," Kadens said. "You have to look at all the different things that create a successful student and a successful person."

Most importantly, Kadens was committed for the long haul.

"Pete has always constantly been there," Rowland said. "When I gave him plenty of reasons to stop believing in me, he stayed. And he's still sticking it out with me. He's something special. It's hard to put in words."

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