Pharrell repays North Texas student’s loans

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Pharrell Williams arrives at the Oscars on Sunday, February 26, 2017 at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles.  (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Pharrell Williams arrives at the Oscars on Sunday, February 26, 2017 at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

Grammy-winning rapper and producer Pharrell Williams announced Friday that he is paying off the student debt of five young NAACP leaders, and a North Texas student is one of them.

Channing Hill, of Euless, who will begin his final year at Howard University in the fall, will receive $18,000.

“I’m still in awe,” she said. “It just keeps sinking in every day, every second that I realize I’m just discovering more opportunities available to me.”

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A graduate of Trinity High School and a student at Howard University, Channing Hill was named the 2022 Young Activist of the Year at the NAACP Image Awards. Courtesy of Channing Hill

Hill and the other four students and recent graduates from historically black colleges and universities found out their loans would be repaid during a roundtable in Washington, DC. The panel was organized by the NAACP and was part of Williams’ three-day “Something in the Water” festival.

Hill said she felt the burden of having to bear tens of thousands of dollars in student debt, and that paying it off was a breath of fresh air.

Hill, a strategic management and legal communications specialist and president of Howard’s NAACP student chapter, said she plans to go to law school and become a lawyer.

Last fall, Hill helped lead the longest-running student protest in Howard’s history, demanding the school take action against inadequate student housing.

In February, Hill won an NAACP Image Award as Young Activist of the Year for her role in the protest.

A step in closing the racial wealth gap

NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson celebrated Williams’ pledge to repay the loans, but also continued to call on President Joe Biden to forgive student loan debt, a move he considers as important in narrowing the racial wealth gap.

The Biden administration reportedly plans to write off $10,000 in student debt per borrower, a figure leaders like Johnson have criticized as too low.

Black student borrowers carry a disproportionate amount of debt, being the only racial group in the country whose median annual income is exceeded by their student loan debt.

Hill said that as black Americans attempt to heal generations of racial trauma, discrimination and lack of resources through education, debt weighs on that progress.

Hill pointed out that the panel event took place in front of the White House, where action to erase student debt has yet to be taken.

Hill said that in the middle of the celebration, the five students recognized that the moment felt like a blessing or luck and that this type of relief was needed for everyone.

“I don’t want my family to be crippled by student loan debt,” she said. “I don’t want to feel lucky. I want to feel independent.

Hill’s father, Clarence, covers the Dallas Cowboys for the Star-Telegram.

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David Silva Ramirez is a multimedia generalist journalist at Star-Telegram. He grew up in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and is passionate about covering government, education, local communities and cool features. You can contact David at dsramirez@star-telegram.com or on Twitter @ByDavidSilvaR.

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