Pharrell Williams cleared the student loans of these five and now they are doing same for others

BY Preta Peace Namasaba March 31, 2024 9:59 AM EDT
Pharrell Williams cleared the student loans of five NAACP leaders. Photo credit: The Dallas Morning News

In 2022, Pharrell Williams wiped the student loans of five NAACP student leaders during the start of his Something in the Water Festival. He surprised Robyn Hughes, Damarius Davis, Jamie Turner, Channing Hill, and Davan Vilfrard with a reward for their work and advocacy. The recipients of Williams’ student loan forgiveness gift have returned with their own outreach with The Cash In Grad Out Foundation, a nonprofit that aids HBCU students in resolving the student debt crisis.

“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,” the organization wrote in an Instagram post.

The group was inspired by Williams to give back to the institutions that were designed to support the advancement of Black professionals. They have turned a simple conversation into a full-fledged organization dedicated to helping students further their education. The foundation pays for the full balance of student loans and supports its members to pursue higher education degrees.

In addition, the Cash In Grad Out Foundation aims to instill financial literacy and teach students about the complexities of obtaining student loans. The foundation provides access and connections to health-related services, mental health support services and first-time homeowner programs. With African Americans more likely to have student loan debt and higher balances, its founders are cautioning students on the perils of student loan debt.

“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,” said Davan Vilfrard, CEO of the Cash In Grad Out Foundation.

The foundation intends to embark on a 15-stop tour across multiple HBCUs this summer to connect more with students. It has collaborations in the pipeline with the NAACP, The Transformative Justice Coalition, and the Something In The Water Festival.

Williams has an impressive track record of empowering Black innovators, entrepreneurs and students. His annual Black Ambition Prize Competition offers founders across industries up to $3 million in prize money. The organization has a unique application track for HBCU students and alums that provides the opportunity to win up to $200,000 through the HBCU Prize and smaller prizes to HBCU affiliate teams.