Once-homeless man graduates college with 3.2 GPA, now wants to help others

A once-homeless man proved earlier this month that anything is possible with hard work after graduating from University of California, Merced at 52 years old.

Stephen Maxey proudly wore his UC Merced Bobcats basketball shirt after graduating with a 3.2 GPA. He called his graduation "very surprising and very satisfying," especially because when he first enrolled in classes, he was homeless and battling addiction.

When Maxey first stepped onto the Merced College campus six years ago -- after weeks of wandering the town -- he had no idea what to expect.

"I wanted to take some classes just to get off the street. That's the only reason I was going," Maxey told InsideEdition.com.

He sat down with academic advisor Amir Falahi, who told him that one day, he would graduate from University of California, Merced, a brand new facility that was affiliated with Merced College.

"He said he was not too sure what he wanted to do," Falahi told InsideEdition.com. "I assured him, 'if you want it bad enough, you can do it.'"

Even though Maxey had no money for classes and the semester had already started, Falani knew he would qualify for financial aid and enrolled him in a class that same day.

"When I got there that morning, I was not a student," Maxey said. Two days later, he would be taking his first exam.

He was given a study guide, which he brought back to the homeless shelter, where his friends jumped on the opportunity to help him out.

When he went back to take the exam the following Friday, Maxey said he remembered getting a B, though he had not taken classes since high school.

"I was excited to do it," Maxey recalled. "It seemed difficult at first, but it was something that once I got to studying, I'm surprised I was able to be fairly good at it."

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"Stephen was like a dry sponge," Falahi said. "He picked it up, and he did so well."

When it came time to decide on a major, Maxey told his advisor, "I met some mighty interesting people at the shelter, and I could do something to make me understand them, or maybe something to help them."

Falahi suggested that he should major in psychology, to which Maxey replied, "Yes sir -- what is psychology?"

Three years later, with guidance from Falahi, Maxey transferred to UC Merced, where he went on to major in psychology while also studying sociology and international studies.

He was awarded scholarships for his studies, took out student loans for housing, and excelled in school with support from professors, advisers, and tutors.

"I thought maybe being a little older, I'd get neglected or pushed around, but some of those folks are true friends of mine," Maxey said.

But with the community behind him, Maxey excelled, graduating from UC Merced only six years after committing to turning his life around.

"I was so proud of him," Falahi said, after attending his June graduation. "Every opportunity, he thanks me and I keep telling him, 'You did it yourself.'"

Maxey told InsideEdition.com that his friends from the homeless shelter have reached out to him in search of guidance, but he hopes to ultimately help pass legislation so others like him can have access to more permanent housing.

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