EL SEGUNDO, Calif. - Kristen Villanueva was the valedictorian of her high school in El Segundo and is set to start Cal Poly San Luis Obispo next month.
But thieves almost ruined her college dreams recently.
A few days ago as she and her family returned home from her school's orientation, they discovered their house had been ransacked.
"I went into my room and saw a complete mess - all the drawers were pulled out and papers were everywhere," she recalled.
Among the things stolen: the $2,000 she had saved working for years as a tutor to help pay for college.
"I just felt so sad for her that something is gone she worked so hard for," said her mother, Jane. "It just broke my heart."
And it tugged at the heartstrings of the police officers who responded to her case.
They joined together with the El Segundo Officer's Association and decided to start a crowdfunding effort to help replace some of the stolen college money.
They ended up replacing the missing funds - and more.
"We thought let's start this GoFundMe page and hopefully we can raise this money so she can have all the dreams she had to go to college," said Officer Joseph Cameron.
Within nine days, the effort had passed its goal and the officers presented Villanueva with a check for $5,000.
The family says the generosity from the officers and the community turned a very negative experience into a very positive one and made Villanueva appreciate being able to go to college even more.
"I feel very privileged and fortunate to be able to go to school and I think it justifies the idea that hard work does pay off," she said.