A 24-year-old entrepreneur has launched a $100,000 scholarship for students at historically Black colleges and universities, aiming to uplift young people who are facing financial hardships like he did while going to school.
Bryce Thompson, founder of the It’ll All Make Sense (IAMS) Foundation Scholarship, recalls the struggles he faced as a freshman at Morehouse College. He remembers returning to his dorm room after the first day of class and seeing a notice on his door, stating that he would have to withdraw from school if he doesn’t pay the outstanding balance immediately.
The young man and his mother sat in the parking lot of the school after getting the notice, frantically calling family members in hopes of finding somebody who could help the HBCU student.
“As a last resort, my mom called her uncle whom I hadn’t seen since I was 8 years old, to ask for his help,” Thompson told Blavity. “My great uncle was far from a rich man, but he took it upon himself to take out a loan to cover my entire first year of college.”
The Morehouse student made a promise to his uncle at that point, saying that he would one day pay it forward.
“I made him a promise that when I was in the position to help someone else, I would do so,” the philanthropist said. “I started the IAMS Foundation Scholarship to help young students facing financial challenges, continue their education. This was my goal and because of my success I was able to achieve it earlier than expected.”
According to Forbes, Thompson’s rapid rise to success was made possible with the help of his older brother, Branden Thompson, who introduced him to cryptocurrency and investing. The man who struggled to afford college soon became a master of the venture, catapulting himself into a millionaire in his 20s.
When he found himself in a position to help others, Thompson sat down with dozens of HBCU students who were facing difficulties, listening to their stories and understanding each situation before awarding the scholarships. One student who spoke to the generous giver revealed that he had been homeless for a time because he couldn’t afford college tuition and housing at the same time. The student also has dyslexia, which makes learning more difficult.
“This young man was feeling like giving up on his dream of achieving an education,” Thompson said.
But there was a clear difference when the student received the scholarship.
“He immediately felt like he had received a much-needed boost and that something had finally gone right for once,” the IAMS founder said. “The impact this scholarship will have on his life will hopefully give him the confidence to keep moving forward and reach his goal of becoming not only a college graduate but a successful and productive man.”
Looking back at his experience at an HBCU, Thompson said he found professors who were really interested in seeing him succeed in education and life. That experience shaped how the young man saw himself in the world and inspired him to believe that anything is possible.
“The environment that they provided, helped foster my sense of purpose and stirred in me the drive to succeed,” he said.
For Thompson, Morehouse served as an environment where he was “surrounded by people that shared similar experiences and challenges and were there for the same reasons and aspired to achieve great things.”
“HBCU’s provide a safe environment where one is free to express openly the challenges of being Black in America and find solutions to help move the culture forward through shared ideas,” Thompson said.
Thompson’s advice to incoming students is “to savor the feeling of community and shared purpose.”
“Once they leave, it’s a feeling that will most likely not be duplicated or felt again,” he said.
The entrepreneur is following in the footsteps of philanthropists such as Robert F. Smith, who has made multiple contributions to HBCUs, as Blavity previously reported. Smith’s donation includes a $50 million contribution to the Student Freedom Initiative, a nonprofit organization that strives to uplift students attending HBCUs. He also gave $34 million to the Morehouse College Class of 2019, allowing graduates to begin their careers debt-free.
Mackenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Jeff Bezos, stepped up as another generous giver last year when she focused part of her massive community outreach effort on community-centered programs. Scott, who donated a total of about $6 billion to charities in 2020, gave a large portion of her gifts to four HBCUs, as Blavity previously reported.
According to the Brookings Institution, Black college graduates finish their bachelor’s degree programs with an average debt of $7,400 more than their white peers.
But Thompson plans to do much more to change the trend.
“I’m currently developing new projects that will diversify my business reach and help others reach their potential in the process,” he said.