Crowdsourcing his tuition
Kambi Gathesha is a General Studies student who, after following an eclectic path that includes studying at Julliard and pursuing a career in dance and acting, realized that scholarship was his true passion.
A year and half away from completing his degree, however, Gathesha ran out of funds — and GS financial aid was unable to help. However, rather than give up, he has taken his struggle to crowdsourcing site gofundme.com. His fundraising page asks that “family, colleagues, professors, and acquaintances” to help him raise the $40,000 he needs for tuition.
Though he is still far from his goal, the page has so far raised over four thousand dollars in fifteen days. Donations have come from “friends, their families, former colleagues, and strangers” and have been in amounts between $5 and $600.
Even with $36,000 left to raise, Gathesha says he is not discouraged by the long road ahead.
“I think the chances of its success are pretty strong,” says Gathesha. “It will require great tenacity from me in terms of publicizing my cause and taking it to more people within the Columbia community and beyond.”
His optimism is matched by determination: “Failure for me is not an option… I have much more to do here. I am not failing. I will do whatever it takes to walk across that stage. This is my life I am investing in.”
In addition to gofundme, Gathesha has publicized his project on the Columbia African Students Association’s Facebook page and on his Twitter account (@KGathesha), where he has asked talents such as Ellen DeGeneres and Alicia Keys to help with a fundraiser tentatively scheduled for Sept. 8.
Despite the confidence he projects, it’s clear that this has been a trying process for Gathesha, and his struggle both exposes and rejects a secret shame felt by many low income individuals. He advices other not to be ashamed of their struggles:
“I think another thing I’ve learned is that there is such a stigma around those who are afflicted with an issue. I can’t tell you how many anonymous messages I’ve gotten from people that write to me ‘you’re so brave for making your struggle so public’ since I’ve launched my campaign. It troubles me that people, myself included feel ashamed of their personal struggles.”
Should the project succeed, Gathesha has big plans for his graduate career. He states on his gofundme page that he hopes to “film a documentary and companion book on the connections between dances of the African Diaspora from Hip-Hop to jazz, tap to swing, and dances from the Caribbean” and after graduating, “turn that project into a thesis, resume my career as a dancer, actor, and filmmaker, and pursue a PhD in African History.”
Regardless of his hardship, Kambi bears no ill will toward Columbia. He calls GS “an institution I love, an institution that has helped me grow, and an institution that I want to contribute to.”
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