LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Alondra Carmona’s aspirations to become a pediatric neurosurgeon and help her mom get back on her feet are now within reach thanks to the kindness of strangers.

Carmona was accepted to her dream school Barnard College, an Ivy League liberal arts college for women located in New York City, on Dec. 14.

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“I was just really emotional,” says Carmona, a senior at YES Prep East End in Houston, Texas. “And then I told her I got into my dream school. And I just started crying and then we were both crying.”

But with a price tag of $78,000 year, the cost was out of reach even after Bernard offered her $60,000 a year.

“Once I saw the price, I said, ‘Oh, my God. I cannot pay for that,'” Carmona told CBS affiliate KHOU.

Through internships at Rice University and a part-time job at Chipotle, Carmona had managed to save $1,800. But then in early February, Carmona got some unexpected news. Her mom, Martha Zepeda, had lost her job at the Port of Houston.

“She said that she hasn’t had a job for three months,” Carmona said. “And right when she told me that, I kind of wanted to cry because I knew then that I had to accept that I wasn’t going to be able to go to Barnard.”

Zepeda was also three months behind on rent and facing possible eviction.

“I love my mom so much. She has really done so much for us, even just coming from El Salvador to give us a better chance at a good education,” Carmona said. “I’m so grateful to her.”

After giving her mom all of her college savings, Carmona launched a GoFundMe fundraiser on Feb. 5 to ask the public for help fund her studies and her mom’s rent. The initial goal of $30,000 was quickly met and then some.

“After the goal, people kept donating and donating,” Carmona says.

As of Feb. 16, more than 4,500 strangers had donated more than $170,000 and counting.

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“I have worked so hard to get to Barnard and I didn’t think I was going to get to go and you all have made it possible for me to go to Bernard with basically a full ride scholarship,” she says. “I can’t stop saying ‘thank you,’ you made my dream come true.”