Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Operation Graduation: HBCU Student Uses Crowdfunding to Tackle Tuition Debt

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Howard University student Ché Nembhard is among the thousands of HBCU students who are struggling to pay for tuition and stay in school.  In his case, he needed to settle a $7,000 bill before he could register for classes to start his senior year. His mother was just coming out of debt due to unemployment and could not afford to help her son. He reached out to a group of successful African-American men to help him, many who also faced the same challenges in completing their undergraduate degrees: Cedric Brown, The Kapor Center for Social Impact; Marcus Littles, Frontline Solutions; Chad Jones, The Community Investment Network;  C. Milano Harden, The Genius Group/TGG; Dwayne Patterson, The Sixth Group; and William Buster, W.K. Kellogg Foundation. These men, who are longtime friends of Ché’s mother, committed to mentoring him and strategized on ways to help offset his tuition costs such as paid internships, scholarship opportunities and a crowdfunding campaign.

The results of the Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign were astounding - in just 7 short days, Ché was able to raise $8,600. All of the men have made a donation and shared the campaign with their networks including Howard alumni. Cedric Brown, Managing Partner of The Kapor Center shared, “This was a no-brainer. If I’m truly about this black male achievement/wellness work, then my actions need to be both grassroots and hilltop, both individual and institutional. As my former intern, Ché is a prime example of the talented young brothas we MUST support in their pursuits! And I knew that by combining the power of the village with a crowdfunding platform, we could reach our goal. What mindblowing results!”

Individual donations have ranged from $5 to $1,000 and from as far away as Australia. “The miracle here is the abiding element of “community philanthropy” - our generous, empathic, real-time giving to those already in our community,” shared C. Milano Harden of the Genius Group, Inc./TGG.

Ché started the campaign with a modest goal of $3,000 and is grateful for the outpouring of support.

Chad Jones, executive director of the Community Investment Network shared his motivation for giving: “Rather than consume a couple of more restaurant meals or buy a pair of shoes or slacks, I could invest in the educational access for someone younger. I am simply assuring the access to knowledge, wisdom and power, in the spirit of my mother and grandmother who were both teachers.”

Dwayne Patterson of The Sixth Group was motivated to donate to counteract the negative stereotypes often faced by African American males: “As a business owner and graduate of North Carolina A&T State University, I was compelled by a force greater than myself to be an active participant in creating a counter narrative to the dominant negative narrative about African American men in America. I know first-hand how difficult it was for me to focus on academics when my personal economic situation was horrible. I wanted to do all that I could to contribute to Ché’s circumstance being different this time. One of my primary contributions to any young black man in America is hope. I say you can succeed against all odds. I invoke the words of Muhammad Ali often: Float like a butterfly and Sting like a bee, Rumble young man Rumble!”

Ché is pursuing a degree in International Relations and Anthropology, and has a longstanding passion for the study of people from different cultures and languages.   He completed his last semester with a 3.5 GPA and for the past two years he has been studying Japanese, which is the first of a number of languages he plans to master by age 25.

To learn more about Ché and to donate, visit his Indiegogo campaign that ends on December 16th.

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