More than 400 graduates of the nonprofit Students Rising Above will have their debt relieved thanks to an $8 million donation

By Rachel DeSantis
May 20, 2020 03:25 PM
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A regular Zoom call for alumni of an academics-inclined nonprofit turned into one they’ll never forget after they learned anonymous donors had shelled out $8 million to pay off their student loans.

Alumni of the nonprofit Students Rising Above received the life-altering news in a Zoom call with SRA CEO Elizabeth Devaney this month.

“What I want to share with you today is that anonymous SRA donors have presented us with a remarkable gift — donations up to $8 million with the intent to eliminate student loan debt on more than 400 students,” Devaney said.

As her words sunk in, the students slowly began to realize what this meant for them, and some smiled in shock while others wiped tears from their eyes or danced in celebration.

“Are you kidding me?” students can be heard shouting. “This isn’t a joke, right?”

SRA serves low-income, often first-generation students in the Bay Area’s nine counties, and helps them get to college by offering personal guidance and mentoring, internships and career advice and financial support.

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Among those who will now have their debt paid off is Zachary Tabb, a 35-year-old pediatric resident at Baylor College of Medicine who has more than $100,000 in student loans.

“My mind was spinning, trying to process what a non-debt life was,” he told Good Morning America. “Basically I’ve carried around some form of educational debt my entire adult life… To all of a sudden hear, ‘Well, you don’t have to do that anymore,’ it’s like, ‘What? Say that again to me.’”

Tabb told the outlet that he discovered SRA when he was a senior in high school with no plans to go to college. The nonprofit helped place him in a fellowship that allowed him to attend school, which he says changed the whole path of his life.

Kimberly Armstrong, another SRA alumnus, told KPIX that the generous gift is helping to relieve her of nearly $300,000 in loans.

“I’m shocked. I almost don’t believe it,” she told the outlet. “It’s a relief. Once you start kind of settling in, there’s this weight that comes off of you. Literally, it’s a weight lifted.”

SRA’s Head of Programs Lorna Contreras-Townsend said the average SRA scholar graduates with around $8,000 in student loans, KPIX reported.

To be eligible for the donation, alumni must have graduated or be scheduled to graduate by Jan. 31, 2021.

“With student loans increasingly becoming a financial burden, SRA is grateful for the opportunity to facilitate relief to our hardworking alumni who have become highly productive members of the workforce nationwide,” Devaney said in a statement.