Dallas Native Overcomes Homelessness to Become a College Graduate

An encounter with a staff member changed the course of his life

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Four years ago, Caleb Simmons was at a crossroads.

“At some point I couldn’t go to class. I really was about to just drop out,” he said.

He’d just been accepted into UNT Dallas when his life seemed to start falling apart.

“We lost our house,” said Simmons. “I had nowhere to stay. I had no car at the time.”

He was a new college student, from Oak Cliff, but had no place to truly call home.

“I would even get questions like ‘hey where do you live?’ And it’s kind of hard to answer a question like where do you live when you don’t actually live anywhere,” said Simmons.

Then he met Joann Chapin, a Student Solutions Specialist on campus.

“When I met Caleb, I could just tell he needed some assistance,” said Chapin.

Chapin connected Simmons with another faculty member who had room in his house to take him in.

During Semester breaks and weekends Simmons spent time with Chapin and her family

“He’s definitely like a son to me,” she said.

And when space opened in the dorms, Chapin made sure Simmons had the resources to get a room.

He kept going, and on Friday, night Simmons graduated -- and delivered a speech to his classmates with the woman he now calls his “mom” watching.

“I’m proud to get to sit in his family section and me and my kids get to sit there and watch him graduate,” said Chapin.

Simmons says Chapin has been a blessing.

“If she wouldn’t have been here I probably wouldn’t be here,” he said.

Chapin says the same about her “son.”

“Caleb’s been a blessing to me ever since I met him, and I’m just thankful that he’s in my life really,” she said.

Simmons will be spending Christmas with Chapin and her family.

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