HOUSTON — Long hours and mountains of homework: that's been Alondra Carmona's life for the last four years at YES Prep East End. In December, all her hard work paid off.
"I was just really emotional," Carmona said. "I got into my dream school. I told (my mom), and then I started crying, then she started crying."
Carmona got into Barnard College, an Ivy League all-women's school. The price tag is $78,000 a year. Barnard offered her $60,000 a year, but even with that, the cost was out of reach.
"Once I saw the price, I said, 'Oh, my God. I cannot pay for that,'" Carmona said.
She had some money saved up: more than $1,800 in savings from working long shifts at Chipotle and internships at Rice University. But in early February, she got some unexpected news from her mom.
"She said she hasn't had a job for three months," Carmona said. "When she told me that, I wanted to cry. I knew I had to accept I couldn't go to Barnard."
It was a big blow. Her mom lost her job at the Port of Houston and owed $2,000 in rent. To Carmona, her mom, Martha, was her hero.
"I love my mom so much," Carmona said. "She has really done so much for us just coming from El Salvador to give us a better chance at a good education. I'm so grateful to her."
Carmona knew what she had to do.
"I knew I wanted to help her. I really didn't think twice about it," Carmona said. "I told her I'm going to give you my savings and make a GoFundMe page to see if I can get enough to replace the money in my savings."
The goal was $30,000. That GoFundMe page exploded in a matter of days.
"After the goal, people kept donating and donating," Carmona said.
More than 3,000 strangers have donated a shocking more than $125,000 and counting.
"I just want to say thank you, my biggest thank you, for donating," Carmona said. "I have worked so hard to get to Barnard and I didn't think I was going to get to go. You have made it possible for me to go with a full ride scholarship."
Her dream of becoming a pediatric neurosurgeon now definitely within reach, with money to spare to help her mom get back on her feet.
"It does mean a lot more because a lot of people are struggling," Carmona said. "I can't stop saying thank you. You made my dream come true."