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Recipients Of Pharrell Williams’ Student Loan Forgiveness Gift Launch A Nonprofit To Provide Financial Literacy And Support To HBCUs


Pharrell Williams’ action of clearing student debt has contributed to a good cause.

As AFROTECH™ previously told you, the record producer and philanthropist surprised five NAACP student leaders with the news at the start of the Something In the Water Festival in Washington D.C. on June 17, 2022.

Among the recipients at the time were Robyn Hughes, a junior at Southern University; Damarius Davis, an alumni of North Carolina A&T; Jamie Turner, an alumni of Norfolk State University; Channing Hill, a senior at Howard University; and Devan Vilfrard, a senior at Florida A&M University.

“Throughout my 3 years at Howard University I had personally accumulated over $18,000 in student loan debt and that figure becomes multiplied when you add on the loans my parents have accumulated,” Hill wrote in her reaction to the news on Instagram, according to WFAA-8 in Dallas, TX. “Today, I enter my senior year with a clean slate. Pharrell In partnership with the NAACP has committed to pay off my student loan debt. My god. I’m still in disbelief.”

Following the forgiveness of their student loans and inspired by Pharrell Williams’ student loan pledge, four recipients have come together to launch The Cash In Grad Out Foundation Inc., a nonprofit aimed at supporting students in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other institutions of higher education, a news release provided to AFROTECH™ mentions.

“The Cash In Grad Out Foundation, Inc. is proud to announce our commitment to the advancement and development of HBCU students and graduates through our work to find a solution to the student debt crisis that disproportionately affects HBCU graduates,” a statement on the nonprofit’s Instagram reads. “After that fateful Juneteenth weekend where @pharrell and the @somethinginthewater team paid off our loans, we wanted to give back to the institutions that were designed to support the advancement of Black professionals. What started as a simple conversation is now a full fledged organization.”

The nonprofit will provide opportunities for individuals to receive support and resources such as health and wellness services, financial wellness services, and support for achieving homeownership. Furthermore, members who are accepted will receive a “one-time student loan pay-off.”

“It goes beyond debt for many of these students. It’s about the financial literacy that many have not been afforded. We aim to provide a holistic view of life after student debt,” said Hughes, who serves as the board chair of The Cash In Grad Out Foundation Inc., according to a news release.

Vilfrard, CEO of The Cash In Grad Out Foundation, shared in a statement, “After President Biden’s recent actions impacting older student debt, it is becoming clear that younger graduates will see little to no sweeping debt relief for some time, if ever. We need to caution students about the perils of debt while doing our best to free people from the burdens of debt.”

Looking ahead, the nonprofit plans to launch a 15-stop tour to reach different HBCUs during the summer and fall of 2024, while also collaborating with the Something In the Water Festival, NAACP, and the Transformative Justice Coalition.

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