Across the country, scores of talented, hardworking and very accomplished teens will not get the opportunity to go to college no matter how well they do in school.
Why? Because they can’t afford it.
Back in 2009, that was the exact situation facing Delaware high school students Jaiquann, Elijah, Darien and Barien. Overcoming extreme hardship, they persevered and were each accepted to their dream colleges. However, they each had a rude awakening when they realized they could never pay for it.
This crushing of aspirations was unfortunate not only for these four students, but for the entire country because a better-educated workforce would certainly benefit everyone. After all, an education is a surefire way for low-income individuals to break into the middle class.
Luckily, something incredible happened for these four young men. And it came in the form of entertainer will.i.am.
As the Huffington Post reports, five years ago these teens were guests on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” After each shared his story, Winfrey brought out the Black Eyed Peas singer who decided to give them his first-ever i.am scholarships — a full ride for four years, including room and board and books.
“I know my purpose is to continue to inspire young people because it’s just going to keep inspiring me back. I want to do my part,” will.i.am said at the time. “I want to invest in America’s future and I want to send you to college. I am here to let you know that you can be anything you want to be. You are the future of the world.”
Fast forward to present day, and it’s clear that will.i.am’s investment was no mistake. In a recent episode of “Oprah: Where Are They Now?,” Winfrey decided to check in on these now-grown men. And not only have they all become accomplished individuals, they have soared.
Thanks to will.i.am’s generous gift, Jaiquann is now a teacher after earning a degree in education from Pennsylvania’s Cabrini College. Elijah, an Indiana University of Pennsylvania grad, is working his way into the architectural field. Darien will graduate with an industrial engineering degree from Morgan State University in Baltimore next year, and Barien is set to graduate from pharmacy school in 2016.
Not only that, but these men are also paying it forward to help kids who were just like them. “We’ve been going to a lot of elementary, middle and high school just talking to the youth about how important it is to maintain high grades, how important it is to go to college,” said Jaiquann. “Basically, do whatever it takes to follow your dreams and meet your goals in life.”