How compassion, not just free tuition, helped one Ohio student achieve his college dreams


Toledo, Ohio — A little more than four years ago, students at Scott High School in Toledo, Ohio, walked into the school's gymnasium for an assembly and then received the surprise of a lifetime.

“If you're sitting here in this room today, your tuition, room and board, books and fees, and you're going to college for free,” philanthropist and entrepreneur Pete Kadens told them in February 2020.

Kadens had started a nonprofit organization, called HOPE Toledo, for students like Chris Rowland.

Rowland said she never could have afforded college, especially after her mother, Abena, lost her job and her father died in a fire.

“A lot has happened,” Rowland told CBS News this week.

Then, shortly after starting college, Rowland's brother, Jo'Von, was killed.

“My grades went down,” Rowland said. “They went completely downhill.”

Rowland dropped out of school, struggled to hold down a job and fell in with the wrong crowd.

Although she gave up on Hope Toledo, all hope was not lost.

From that first day at the gym, until now, Kadens remained in Rowland's life. Through all the missteps and missed opportunities, Kadens has been there, mentoring, lecturing, nurturing and nurturing.

Because of Kaden's constant presence, Rowland is back on track today. He just finished his freshman year at Lourdes University in Sylvania, Ohio.

“You know what I realized along this journey…if all we do is give them money, they're not going to make it,” Kadens said. “You have to look at all the different things that make a successful student and person.”

Most importantly, Kadens made a long-term commitment.

“Pete has always been there consistently,” Rowland said. “When I gave him a lot of reasons to stop believing in me, he stayed. And he still does. It's something special. It's hard to put into words.”


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