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San Bernardino homeless man graduates from college

June 17, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
A San Bernardino student is living proof that persistence and hard studying can pay off.

In a few short years Dominic Ruffin has gone from homeless to a soon-to-be college graduate. Like most college seniors, Ruffin is looking ahead to the future while trying to pass those last final exams.

But years ago Ruffin's future was not so certain. As a child he had grown up in the foster care system living in a group home until his 18th birthday.

"When I emancipated I wanted to go straight to college," said Ruffin. "But because the foster care system stopped basically paying for me to live in a group home they cut me off."

Shortly afterwards Ruffin became homeless. He headed to Northern California where he found a place to live, worked odd jobs and made it through junior college.

But two years later he was homeless again.

"With the lack of education that I had, I would keep hitting these roadblocks," said Ruffin. "I knew that the only way out was through school."

So Ruffin enrolled in Cal State San Bernardino. Financial aid paid for classes, but he was unable to afford textbooks. Instead, he checked books out at the library.

For seven months he lived as a homeless student sleeping in his car at a downtown park or at the campus library. That was until a conversation with a professor changed everything.

"When you tell somebody you're alright and you're on the borderline of tears, it's not that believable," said Ruffin.

Dr. Peaccok got Ruffin into student housing.

"She was like the Mohamed Ali of administration," said Ruffin. "She was there in my corner."

Ruffin says he wants to help by returning to the foster care system as a social worker.

"There should be a bigger emphasis on getting children that were in foster care into colleges," said Ruffin. "I feel like they are one of our most vulnerable populations."

On Sunday, Ruffin will graduate with a degree in social sciences.

"Once I walk across that stage on the 19th that is definitely a moment that nobody will be able to take from me," said Ruffin.

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