As scholarship leaves a gap, Cornell student turns to crowdfunding so he can stay in school

September 30, 2015 by Mark H. Anbinder

"I worked really hard to get here. I can't leave now!" That's the message that begins Cornell engineering student Jonah Hephzibah's plea for help with an unexpected tuition shortfall on GoFundMe, a crowdfunding web site.

Fifteen hours and 575 donations later, Jonah's GoFundMe page had received the contributions he needed to stay in school.

Jonah Hephzibah in Cornell's Duffield Hall. Photo provided.Jonah Hephzibah in Cornell's Duffield Hall. Photo provided.The young man, who says he's "a first-generation undocumented minority student from a single-parent home," arrived in Ithaca just weeks ago as a transfer student from Santa Monica College. Being awarded the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship, a prestigious program aimed at students who hope to transfer, "made it possible for me to enroll in the best program I was admitted to, Cornell, despite the high costs of it being a private university," he says.

Jonah says he believed he could apply his entire scholarship award toward his fall semester tuition and fees, and work to earn money for the spring, but on Friday he heard from Cornell that he owed $14,000, by early October, or he'd be forced to withdraw and drop his courses.

The mechanical engineering student, who says he hopes to "give back by designing innovations such as prosthetic limbs for veterans," turned to GoFundMe, and in about five hours, hundreds of people each donating a small amount had gotten him halfway to his goal.

"Any help I can get to reaching my goal would be great," Jonah told us on Tuesday night.

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