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Spring Arbor University Offers Scholarship to Help Homeless Man Fulfill Dreams

It’s a story straight out of Hollywood, by way of the Internet.

A Florida tourist takes a video of a homeless man playing Styx’s “Come Sail Away.” It’s breathtakingly beautiful. She puts it on Facebook. The Internet eats it up: In less than a month, the video has 12 million views on YouTube.

Now, Spring Arbor University is reaching out to the bearded mystery man to help him fulfill his dreams. The Michigan school is offering a full-ride music education scholarship, a gift worth $30,000 or more.

It turns out the homeless man, Donald Gould, 51, was a student at Spring Arbor in the 1990s. He was three credits shy of graduating when he dropped out, got married and watched his life fall apart.

First, his wife died in 1998. Then, he turned to substance abuse. So Social Services took away his son. Homelessness followed. His love of music never wavered.

As the story went viral, Spring Arbor officials got together. They knew what they had to do.

“Offering him the scholarship was an easy decision for us to make because of who we are,” Malachi Crane, vice president for enrollment and marketing at SAU, told USA Today.

“We have seen countless students and lives impacted by the transformational education we provide and know that Donald has a unique gift for music that he can use to change lives.”

The scholarship, quite simply, is “the right thing to do,” Crane said. But before Gould re-enrolls, he’s working on his sobriety and getting off the streets.

“He can complete his degree at a time in which he is ready,” Crane said, adding that Gould is getting help to stay on “the right path.”

The benevolence is typical of Michigan’s top 15 independent colleges and universities. Because helping students follow the right path and fulfill their passion is what they do.

All emphasize community over crowds and a spirit of togetherness and cohesion that just doesn’t exist at big state schools. With low class sizes and award-winning faculty, the schools are proud that students forge lifelong bonds with professors.

Often less expensive than public institutions, the independents boast higher four-year graduation rates for a truly unique and affordable experience.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.