Last Mile Education Fund Launches $500K Student Debt Relief Initiative for Women’s History Month
New Initiative Alleviates Student Debt for Twenty Two New Technology Graduates
Baltimore, MD — March 17, 2022 — Today, the Last Mile Education Fund surprised twenty two prior grantees with awards to pay as much as $20,000 towards their student debt. The Last Mile Debt Relief Initiative for Tech Equity aims to enable tech graduates from low-income backgrounds freedom in their career choices, like pursuing advanced degrees, putting their tech skills to work for social good — like working in education or government, or launching a startup of their own.
“What better way to celebrate Women’s History Month, than by investing in their future?,” asks Last Mile CEO and Founder Ruthe Farmer. “The freedom we are able to give these graduates will enable them to become entrepreneurs, role models, and changemakers in technology.”
Launched through a $500,000 gift from the Hopper-Dean Foundation, the Debt Relief Initiative for Tech Equity invited previous Last Mile grant recipients in their final semester or who have recently graduated with a computer science-related bachelor’s degree to apply for relief from educational debt. Last Mile received requests to pay educational debt in excess of $2 million from 56 applicants, which represents an average of $37,000 of student debt per applicant. However, multiple applicants reported debt in excess of six figures, with the largest amount of debt owed by a single applicant exceeding $200,000.
The inaugural recipients of the Last Mile Debt Relief Initiative for Tech Equity are an impressive group of emerging technologists. Several have already started businesses and non-profit organizations, and many are parents or are supporting siblings or family members. They’ve each overcome extraordinary obstacles to complete their degrees and are poised to make an impact in tech. The initial cohort of 22 recipients hail from 13 US states — 45% are Latina, 36% are Black, and 82% are first generation college graduates.
The following Last Mile alumni are recipients of the Debt Relief Initiative for Tech Equity:
Stefani Barrera, Texas A&M University — Corpus Christi, Computer Science, Class of 2020
Kylie Chambers, Oregon State University, Computer Science, Class of 2022
Sonya Cirlos, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Computer Science, Class of 2022
Melissa Grandoit, Florida International University, Information Technology, Class of 2021
Aliya Kingwood, Morgan State University, Computer & Electrical Engineering, Class of 2020
Sharlena Luyen, Oregon State University, Computer Science, Class of 2021
KaYesu Machayo, The George Washington University, Computer Science, Class of 2022
Zanib Malik, George Mason University, Cybersecurity, Class of 2021
Jennifer Marquez, Hofstra University, Computer Science, Class of 2020
Mariella “Alejandra” Massuh, Florida International University,
Computer Science, Class of 2021
Carolann Mora, University of Houston-Downtown, Computer Science, Class of 2021
Carmen Ramirez Morales, Western Governors University, Cybersecurity, Class of 2021
Juliana Paul, Delaware State University, Information Technology, Class of 2022
Jasmine Pittman, North Carolina Central University, Information Technology, Class of 2021
Gentle Ramirez, New York University, Computer Science, Class of 2022
Natalie Reyes, University of Illinois at Chicago, Computer Software Engineering, Class of 2022
Corina Salas, Saint Xavier University, Computer Science, Class of 2021
Morgan Thompson, California State University — Dominguez Hills, Computer Technology/Computer Systems Technology, Class of 2021
Talia Tomarchio, Rowan University, Computer Science, Class of 2021
Rian Walker, Mississippi State University, Computer Software Engineering, Class of 2018
Emma Wolff, Mount Holyoke College, Computer Science and International Relations, Class of 2021
Juleeyah Wright, University of Central Florida, Computer Science, Class of 2021
Upon receiving the news of her award, KaYesu Machayo, who graduates in May with a computer science degree from The George Washington University, said, “This is going to change my life. This is going to change my younger sister’s life, who’s going to college. It’s going to put me in a better position to support her. It’s going to change my family’s life.”
“Last Mile is designed to unlock the potential of striving students like KaYesu and so many in her situation,” Farmer continued. “Debt relief is a natural next step in our mission to increase wages and wealth for technology talent from low-income backgrounds, who will in turn become economic force multipliers for their families and communities.”
Americans collectively owe $1.7 trillion in student loan debt, an amount larger than the gross domestic product (GDP) of nearly every country on Earth, according to the Federal Reserve System. Student debt disproportionately affects borrowers of color, and Black student borrowers are the most likely to struggle financially due to student loan debt, with 29% making monthly payments of $350 or more.
Black, Hispanic, and Native American students generally have higher unmet financial needs, incur more student loan debt, and are more likely to struggle financially to stay in school. The Last Mile Education Fund works to get these students over the last mile to graduation and, now with this initiative, to reduce their student debt obligations as they start their careers.
“We are encouraged that policy makers are working to solve the national student debt crisis, because we see the impact debt has on our grantees first hand,” said Farmer. “But until that time, we are committed to relieving debt for as many of our alumni as we can afford. We believe they are a great investment, and their futures can’t wait any longer.”
To support the efforts of Last Mile Education Fund and lower the student debt for more Last Mile graduates, visit lastmile-ed.org/donate.
About Last Mile Education Fund
Last Mile Education Fund offers a disruptive approach to both social inequality and increasing diversity in tech and engineering fields by addressing critical gaps in financial support for low-income underrepresented students within reach of a degree. Unlike traditional scholarships, Last Mile takes a broad investment approach, identifying students committed to technology and engineering fields, providing agile, just-in-time support for challenges they face beyond their control, and incubating them to be the next generation of innovators. Last Mile Education Fund is a fiscally-sponsored project of the Digital Harbor Foundation. For additional information, visit LastMile-ed.org and follow us on Twitter.
Last Mile Education Fund