"To whom it may concern, my name is Judea Hill and I am a student leader on Drew University's campus," Judea Hill says in a video that was uploaded to YouTube on Monday that is circulating on social networks and has since been viewed more than a thousand times.
Hill, a 21-year-old art major from Brooklyn, plays flute in Drew's orchestras and works in the Telecommunications Department.
But now she needs help paying off a balance of about $2,800 by Aug. 15 so she can return and finish her senior year, she says in the video.
Every year, she puts together funds from working, tutoring, church and close family members to get as close to her balance due as possible, but "this past school year was especially difficult because I had two close family members pass away," she says. "Any and all money that my family had went to sending them off correctly. From last semester I have a balance remaining of almost $2,800. And my school has made it clear that I will not be able to move back in until it is completely paid off."
She said she won't be able come up with that money in time, but still hopes, with help, she will be able to graduate with her class and even dreams of being the class speaker at commencement. She plans to attend graduate school and become an art therapist working with children who have behavioral, emotional or mental health problems.
Dave Muha, chief communications officer for Drew University, confirmed Hill completed her junior year and is enrolled at Drew, but privacy laws prevent the school from providing other information about students' grades or financial situations.
The description of Hill's video, which had nearly 1,300 views early Wednesday morning, says people can call the school's business office to verify her situation and donate anonymously, though the school said that arrangement is not in place, there are privacy laws, and the responsibility of paying a bill is that of the student.
Hill's video also provides a link for people to donate to her PayPal account.
Hill said in an email she did not contact the business office ahead of time.
"Everyone seems to want to support me even if it isn't financially," she said in an email. "Even in that I feel truly blessed to have had so many people watch and react to my story. I did not tell the business office that I was going to be posting a video because I in no way want to bash this school or university but I just need help."
Muha, who said he hadn't seen the video yet Tuesday afternoon, said it sounds like a "kind of clever use of technology of the day" to do something students have been doing for years—finding creative ways to attend college.
In 2006, U.S. News & World Report talked to Simon Hanna, a Drew student who wrote letters to hundreds of friends, relatives and acquaintances seeking funding and eventually connected with a person who ran a foundation that ultimately awarded him $10,000 scholarships his first two years at Drew.
"As long as there have been students there have been entrepeneurial approaches to putting themselves through college," Muha said.
He said the school recognizes it is a difficult economy, and has increased the amount of aid that university is giving out in grants and scholarships to nearly $30 million a year, and 97 percent of undergraduates are annual recipients of aid from Drew.
Hill said in an email she first came to Drew as a high school student for its summer college program that reaches out to urban students.
"I came here and became fascinated with this campus and this town," she said. "I love it here and it has become my home away from home."
She said she has been getting a lot of positive feedback from the video, which was shared on Facebook by the Drew Acorn, the school paper, which profiled her in May.
When not at Drew, Hill lives in the Bushwick developments in Brooklyn. At Drew, she is the Housing Assistant to the theme house Asia Tree in Haselton Hall.