By Carlotta Mohamed
National hip-hop recording artist and motivational speaker Dee-1 hopes to inspire students at Hillcrest High School to pursue a college education.
Born David Augustine, Dee-1, a former middle school math teacher, performed his hit single “Sallie Mae Back” Monday in the school auditorium — located at 160-05 Highland Ave. in Jamaica — after speaking to students about college planning and financial literacy.
In 2016, Dee-1 released “Sallie Mae Back,” a song he wrote to celebrate paying off his student loans, which went viral and became a hit.
Dee-1 and Sallie Mae, the nation’s saving, planning, and paying for college company, are hitting the road across the country this fall to educate high school students about planning for college, financial literacy, and to inform them of Sallie Mae’s $25,000 Bridging the Dream Scholarship Program.
The scholarship program is open to high school juniors and seniors. Dee-1 encouraged high school counselors and community leaders to nominate deserving juniors and seniors for the scholarship program, which ended Friday.
“I’ve spoken to high school students all over the country, and they are hungry for information about going to college, but that’s not enough. We need to give them the tools and knowledge to create a game plan to pay for it, and ultimately graduate,” said Dee-1. “And that’s what this tour is all about. Together we can empower and inspire students to develop that plan, better understand what’s out there to help pay for college, and how to borrow responsibly.”
Since 2016, Dee-1 and Sallie Mae have visited high schools across the country and awarded $190,000 in scholarships and student loan payments, the rap-artist said.
“There’s a big gap that exists to where people want to go to college, but they don’t know how they can afford to pay for college oftentimes, so I talk to them about the importance of applying for scholarships because there are billions of dollars of free scholarship money waiting,” said Dee-1.
According to Sallie Mae, the Bridging the Dream Scholarship Program recognizes students who have excelled both inside and outside of the classroom, but whose financial circumstances or other obstacles in life may not allow them to pursue a college education.
A New Orleans, Louisiana Native, Dee-1 graduated from Louisiana State University in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in marketing. After graduating he taught middle school in Baton Rouge before pursuing his musical dream and signing with RCA Inspiration records.
“I can be that bridge to where they can look at a person like me and say wow if this dude went to college and graduated and talking about how dope it was and how it changed his life, maybe it’s something I should consider much more seriously,” said Dee-1.
In his motivational speech to the Hillcrest High School juniors and seniors, Dee-1 reminded students to “be real, be righteous, be relevant.”
“Don’t let people judge you by your appearance and think they know what your destination is in life based on where you come from or how you look,” said Dee-1.
Reach reporter Carlotta Mohamed by e-mail at cmoha