El Segundo

El Segundo Community Raises $5,000 For Teen Whose College Fund Was Stolen

Burglars stole $2,000 that Villanueva had raised for college by tutoring the past four years

The El Segundo community has raised over $5,000 to support a high school valedictorian whose college fund was stolen while she and her parents were away for her freshman orientation.

When Kristin Villanueva, 17, returned home from orientation at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and saw her room had been rummaged through, her excitement for college quickly dissipated.

The $2,000 Villanueva earned from tutoring over the past four years, money that was supposed to go towards tuition and textbooks during her first quarter at Cal Poly SLO, was stolen.

"She would rush from going to her internships, coming back to tutor, and sometimes not eating lunch because she's so busy with school work and engineering club, robotics until eight, nine at night," said her mother, Jane Kihara. "She worked hard for it, every penny."

When the El Segundo Police Officers' Association heard about what happened to Villanueva, they started a GoFundMe page for her. In less than 10 days, they raised more than double the amount of her original college fund.

"She's helped tutor kids in the city, saved up all her money, she's the valedictorian — we felt (she's) someone who's done everything right her entire life, and something terrible happened to her," said Joseph Cameron, an El Segundo Police Department officer. "We felt we could step in and help out."

Villanueva says the community's kindness has boosted her inspiration to do well in school and beyond so she can give back to the place that has given her so much. 

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