Lauren is a senior psychology major at the University of Montevallo. In March, she and her two roommates lost their home to a house fire. You can donate to the GoFundMe campaign that her friends have since set up here.

The fire

"We were asleep and then all of the sudden I heard my roommate yelling ‘the cat is on fire!’ It started in the back so her room was fine- she had time to grab some things. My room was upstairs in the back, so smoke was starting to billow in. I just had time to put on my PJ pants and grab my cat and my dog. The mayor came by, there were a ton of firetrucks… did you know windows exploded in fires? I didn’t know that either. My cat ran back in the building and I was freaking out, but thankfully she ran back out."

The aftermath

"I looked on Facebook and there was a GoFundMe for me. It’s gotten over 3,000 dollars. It’s incredible. All my teachers have been understanding- a lot have spare copies of the books for their classes. I just bought my cap and gown the day before, and normally I leave stuff in my car for a long time but I actually brought in my cap and gown and it burned. The school’s going to give me a free one, and they offered me free housing. Yesterday Lauren Jones gave me two trash bags of clothes and a big box of other stuff. My friend Sydney brought me necklaces and art supplies and art to put on my walls. I know for a fact it would have been different [at a bigger university] because the classes would be bigger, the teachers wouldn't know me as personally.  One of my teachers showed up to come check on me and Luke [her dog]. I still haven’t even replied to all the messages in my inbox on Facebook- there’s a flood of sweethearts. I have 20+ messages of people checking on me to see if I’m okay, telling me they have extra clothes. This community is a big family. "

Going to school in Montevallo

"I was already pretty open minded, but Montevallo showed me that there are people out there that like the same things as me. I fit in for the first time. Montevallo attracts the misfits. When I was in high school, I had no friends, but I kind of like it that way. It shaped me. I was forced to discover myself, but here I see there’s people like me- I’m not a big weirdo after all! I’m just a normal weirdo like everyone else. It would be boring otherwise. When I got here, I met somebody and I asked them what their favorite band was, and they said a band that nobody else I knew listened to, and I freaked out. Then I asked somebody else and she had a quote [from another favorite band] tattooed on her back! I was like, ‘oh my god, other people like them too!’"

On graduation

"I’m ready [to graduate]. It’s a small, small town. If you break up with one person, you break up with half the town, and you see them everywhere. It’s too small. As for things I'll miss, the porch [of Eclipse] is a big one! And the people, obviously. It’s a teeny town. I like going to the grocery store and seeing like 5 people I know. I’ll walk down the road and cars will honk at me and it’ll be my friends yelling 'we love you!'- I’ll miss that. I’ll live [in a big city] for a little bit, but I think ultimately I’ll end up in a small town."

Memories in Montevallo

"[A favorite memory is] canoing through Orr Park at night- we did it so many times. We lived right on the creek and so we’d canoe all the time. I had a lantern that you’d put a candle in and I’d hold it at the front Harry Potter style. That was pretty Montevallo. Walking everywhere, hula hooping... Lily would spin fire between the cabins all the time. [Montevallo is] free spirited and very expressive. You can be who you are and nobody’s going to care. Everybody’s very kind and welcoming. There’s a lot of people who don’t even go to school here that are really supportive."

Looking back

"[Montevallo] was and wasn’t what I expected. It was silly and crazy and fun and I made so many amazing friends that I’m going to keep forever. I’ve learned a lot and grown a lot as a person in ways that I didn’t expect to, because I had to. It’s dead in the summer, but it’s at its best right when school starts and when it’s about to let out. Everyone’s really excited. I think when school starts back in the fall is when it’s at its best. It’s new and exciting and fresh and there’s a lot of new freshmen who are stoked to be here. Of course I’m going to think it was better when I first got here- I think anybody feels that way about anything. It was the coolest place in the entire world, but now that I’ve been here, it’s ready for me to keep going. I’ve soaked it up, but it’s time for me to move on. There’s been hard times, but the people have been so amazing and supportive. It’s crazy- it makes me tear up."