"This opportunity has been a huge blessing for us to go out on the world on a clean state," said Morehouse graduate and Sugar Land native Alex Sims.
Sims readily admits, he, like most graduates, was barely paying attention during the commencement speech Sunday.
He said he never expected billionaire investor Robert F. Smith to announce such a large donation.
"By the point of the commencement speech, all of us were listening, but our brains were a step behind in processing," said Sims. "So, when he made the announcement that he was going to pay our loans, all of us were like, 'Uhh, what?' Once we started processing, everyone around me jumped up and were crying, hugging each other and cheering."
Sims and 395 of his classmates will all graduate without any student loan debt.
For many, it's a big deal, considering it can cost up to $50,000 a year to study at the elite private school.
"It's one of the greatest gifts we could have been given," said Sim's mother, Pamela. "My husband and I work very hard to make sure that they had the best possible education."
Sims said attending Morehouse was a life-changing journey.
"I went to @Morehouse to get that experience. To really learn more about myself as a black man. 'What can I do as black man to contribute more to our society?'"— Pooja Lodhia (@PoojaOnTV) May 20, 2019
When Sugar Land native Alex Sims graduated, he also learned his student debt will be paid! https://t.co/9sIJblcCes pic.twitter.com/ML6HMoBCco
"I went to Morehouse to get that experience," he said. "To really learn more about myself as a black man."
Smith also challenged alumni to increase donations.
"How can I go back and graduate in 2019? I need that," laughed Will Norwood, the president of Morehouse Alumni Association's Houston chapter. "People are still paying off student loans."
The association has raised $100,000 in the past seven years for scholarships.
It's not quite $40 million, but it's a step in the right direction.
"It makes me want to do even more now because the challenge has been set," said Sims.
And when Sims starts law school at Howard University School of Law, he'll do so with only one debt: one of gratitude.
"That's something we live by," said Pamela. "Pay it forward, give blessings to others."
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