Inland Empire

IE Homeless Student Defies the Odds and Graduates From Chaffey College

With no place to call home, he slept and studied in his truck, never letting on about his struggles.

NBC Universal, Inc. It’s one of the defining moments of a young person’s life but “graduation day” will mean even more to a college student in the Inland Empire who was living and studying out of his truck. Kathy Vara reports for NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on May 14, 2021. 

It’s one of the defining moments of a young person’s life, but “graduation day” will mean even more to a college student in the Inland Empire who was living and studying out of his truck.

“I found myself for the first time, a homeless student living out of my car,” David Matthew Leon said.

When Leon gives a speech at his graduation next week, what he says will be from the heart.

“All my clothes, all my valuables, they are in my truck bed,” he said.

Circumstances led Leon to experience homelessness, but it didn’t stop him from pursuing his dream of graduating with a business degree from Chaffey College in Rancho Cucamonga.

“Chaffey was in the community. I knew them, I always thought they were a great school,” he said.

With no place to call home, he slept and studied in his truck, never letting on about his struggles.

“I’m just trying to do good in my life,” he stated.

It was faculty member, Albert Rodriguez, who finally got Leon to talk about his situation and then stepped in to help.

“I just felt that we needed to do something as a college. I’ve seen him grow a lot. Tremendously from when he started to open up and have those conversations of what was really going on behind the scenes,” Rodriguez said.

Through a school program called “Panther Care,” Leon was able to get his basic needs met like food and housing.

“We know that these experiences will help him impact not only the workforce he goes into, the field he goes into but also the communities he’s going to be in,” Rodriguez added.

“To continue following my dreams and aspirations. I continue not knowing what I'm in for but also knowing I could never give up,” Leon said.

As he tries on the cap and gown that he will wear next week to accept his diploma, he can also be proud not only to graduate at the top of his class, but that his fellow students nominated him as class speaker.

“Remember on the road to success to help someone in the same situation you once were. Thank you and God bless the class of 2020 and God bless the class of 2021.”