For many people, university can be challenging – primarily due to the realisation of how expensive heating/cheese is.
But for one student in the US, the price of cheddar was the least of his worries.
Native American Dakota Kay grew up in humble beginnings in Kayenta, Arizona, but knew as a teenager that he wanted to complete a doctorate in physical therapy.
Dakota Kay defied the odds to obtain his doctorate. Credit: Dakota Kay
Few of his friends went to university, but Dakota – now aged 26 – secured a place at Fort Lewis College for his bachelor’s degree and applied for all the grants available to him.
These funds covered housing during term time, however, he also had to take classes during the summer months and he could not afford accommodation. As such, he spent the next three summers sleeping in the library and showering at a few different spots around town – keeping his homelessness a secret from his family.
Speaking to Inside Edition, he said: “I couldn’t afford housing. I could barely afford tuition and class fees. But I had to stick to my plan. I had to stick to my schedule. I had to do what I had to do.
“I told them to just take me to school and drop me off at the library and I’ll go to my friend’s house from there. They believed me. Luckily, the summer was warm so I didn’t have to worry about being cold.
“In my mind, it was a piece of cake. My mom and dad, they never complained. My ancestors, they suffered for us and it’s nothing compared to what they went through.”
However, the situation became more challenging still when he moved onto his graduate degree at Southwest Baptist University in Missouri. A lack of funding meant he could only cover his tuition and so Dakota resorted to borrowing his parents car, which he parked outside a Walmart and slept in. He was also living off the bare bones diet wise, eating instant noodles and multivitamins.
Dakota said: “I didn’t have enough money for housing, for food, for showers. There was a point where I was so sad and I cried and I was totally lost. I didn’t know what to do.”
However, when Dakota was at his very lowest, he would remember what his parents had been through and it would inspire him to keep going.
He said: “I just had the mindset of doing what I had to do to succeed.
“My dad’s stories of waking up in a hogan – it’s like a hut made of wood with mud on top – on sheep skin on a hard floor. My parents’ family and what they’ve been through. What I [was] going through now is nothing.”
Mercifully, the university eventually found out about how Dakota was scraping by and they were able to sort him out with a dorm room and meals.
Now, despite all the obstacles put before him, Dakota has achieved his long-held ambition of obtaining a doctorate degree in physical therapy and is in the process of applying for jobs in the Indian Health Service.
He said: “I have a responsibility – not only to my nation, but to my family. Life is always going to find a way. You’ve just got to keep your head up.”