An Uber Passenger Made it Possible for This 44-Year-Old Driver to Graduate College


It’s been Latonya Young’s lifelong goal to finish college and earn a degree. Now, because of one of her Uber passengers, she is finally a college graduate.

Young, 44, is a single mother of three. And she credits her Uber passenger, Kevin Esch, with motivating her to go back to school.

Young met Esch three years ago when she pulled over in downtown Atlanta to pick him up. He had just come from an Atlanta United soccer game, and when he got into the car, the two started chatting. Esch shared details about his recent divorce, and Young – whose marriage ended in 2011 – offered him some advice.

During Esch’s ride home, he told the Washington Post, Young told him about wanting to be the first member of her family to graduate from college. She was enrolled at Georgia State University in 2010 but dropped out a year later because she couldn’t pay the tuition. Young had been an Uber driver for three years at the time, and was working late that night because she needed money to pay a utility bill.

That night was the start of an unexpected friendship. Esch tipped Young $150, enough to cover the utility bill, and also gave her his phone number.

“I had my mind made up that I wanted to go back to school,” she told The Washington Post. “He motivated me.”

A few weeks later, when Young tried to re-enroll at Georgia State, she was told that she couldn’t register until her previous balance of $693 was cleared – an amount she couldn’t afford. When she told Esch about the situation, he went to the university and paid off her debt without her knowledge.

“I was in shock,” she said. “This person barely knew me, and yet he wanted to help me.” When she told him she would pay him back, Esch told her: “Pay me back by graduating.”

In December 2019, Young completed her courses, receiving an associate’s degree in criminal justice from Georgia State’s Perimeter College.

Esch attended Young’s graduation ceremony, cheering her on. “It meant everything to me that Kevin was there,” said Young. However, she knew she wasn’t finished, and getting a bachelor’s degree was her ultimate goal.

Young continued her studies while working part-time as a substitute teacher and as a hairstylist. She was supported financially by the Jeanette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund, an organization that offers funding for low-income women over the age of 35. (Esch is now a board member of the organization, after its chief operating officer heard about his friendship with Young.)

On May 6, 2021, Young graduated with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Georgia State’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies. In addition to her family, Esch was once again was there to cheer her on.

“I’m proud that she followed through with what she said she would do for herself,” Esch said. “She’s such an inspiration to me but also to so many people who are in the same position as her.”

Young is now applying for a full-time job in criminal justice. She’s also written a book about her life story; about how one Uber ride changed her entire life. The book is titled “From Broken to Blessed” and is set to release on June 7.


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