Community Raises $5,000 After Teen’s College Fund Is Stolen

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

When 17-year-old Kristin Villanueva returned home from her orientation at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, her excitement for college quickly turned to despair.

“I went into my bedroom and saw dressers pulled out and clothes scattered on ground,” Villanueva said. 

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

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“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 8:00, 9:00 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.”

Now, Villanueva says that she’s even more inspired to study hard at school and build a career so she can give back to the community that’s given so much to her.

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