From homeless to college student

'In-sight' program helped homeless man get resources, funding to attend UNF

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Now that all school-age children are back in the classrooms, it's time for the college students to head back.

Classes started Tuesday at the University of North Florida, and it was an extra special day for one student in particular.

It's a "Positively Jax" story about a student who has moved from a local homeless shelter into a college dorm.

Gerald Dominguez just celebrated his 21st birthday in August, and a fresh start at UNF is the best gift he could ask for.

He lived at the Sulzbacher Homeless Center for more than a year. Thanks to a new program there and some believing mentors he met there, he's officially college bound.

"I was anxious and excited, and I'm sitting next to this one lady and I forget her name, but we're going to get an ‘A' in that class. We set our goal is to get an ‘A.' We don't want anything else but an ‘A'," said Dominguez.

He's talking about his very first class at the UNF on Monday morning, world history. He has a dedicated and passionate attitude after overcoming lots of obstacles.

Dominguez said he moved to Jacksonville with a family friend when he was 19 for a fresh start. After a disagreement he was living on the streets, couch surfing, trying to find his way. That's when he found himself at the Sulzbacher Center, living in a dorm with 119 other homeless men.

"It's been a journey. This is more the cut and dry version, but one thing I cannot say is I'm alone because I have a lot of people that are loving me right now," said Dominguez.

He moved in to a totally different type of dorm this weekend at UNF with three other roommates.

"I am thankful I am no longer in a homeless shelter. I have a laptop, I have a 32-inch TV brand new," said Dominguez.

That's all thanks to a new program called ‘In-sight,' something two employees at the Sulzbacher Center founded. A program to help people at the center apply for financial aid and get into college.

"It has a double meaning. You try to get them insight into college and then you let them know that college is in their sight," said Joshua Stancliff, one of the program's founders.

Dominguez is the first to make it through the program.

"I am more beyond grateful, I don't even know if I can show enough gratitude," said Dominguez.

Gerald's name is actually Jared Stephens but he's in the process of legally changing it after the woman he calls his godmother.

He didn't want to talk much about his biological parents. Only that his mom was in Africa and he wasn't able to go to college when he was 18 because he couldn't get proper documentation from her.

He dreams of becoming a motivational speaker.