Rihanna gives back with scholarship program

Rihanna recently announced a scholarship program for students attending universities in the United States, but she is far from the first celebrity to give back to education.

Andy Kropa/Invision/AP
Rihanna attends the JFENTY PUMA by Rihanna fashion show in New York in February. The Grammy-winning singer has established a scholarship fund for incoming college freshman to 'help provide perspective, opportunities and learning to a group of kids who really deserve it.'

Grammy-winning singer Rihanna is offering a financial boost to students struggling to figure out how to pay for a college education.

The new scholarship fund, which will be administered through the Clara Lionel Foundation (CLF), will be available to incoming freshman students working toward a bachelor’s degree and attending a four-year university in the United States for the upcoming academic year. Students must be US residents, or studying in the US internationally from Barbados, Brazil, Cuba, Haiti, Guyana, or Jamaica.

The cost of college is a significant barrier to entry for many American students and many take on a lifetime of debt just to get in the door. For low-income students who do manage to cobble together tuition through a combination of work-study programs, part-time jobs, and loans, the added pressure of financial strain adds further stress to the already rigorous demands of school. For that reason, low-income students graduate at a lower rate than their more financially comfortable peers.

Rhianna hopes her scholarship program can shift those odds for recipients.

“To be able to give the gift of an education is actually an honor,” Rihanna told USA Today. “Higher education will help provide perspective, opportunities and learning to a group of kids who really deserve it. I am thrilled to be able to do this.”

The financial aid grants range from $5,000 to $50,000 per student, and can be renewed through all three subsequent years of college study or when a student’s degree program is completed.

“I don’t think it’s fair that children carry the burden of financial limitations at such a young age,” Rihanna said in a CLF video on the foundation’s efforts.

“It might not literally be putting someone up on stage, but just giving them the outlet to do something they might love, keep them focused on positive things,” she said.

Rihanna grew up in Barbados and never completed high school, instead focusing on her performing career which she rode to international prominence.

The new scholarship fund is not the first philanthropic work by the music star, who has sold more than 185 million records worldwide, and has been recognized with eight Grammy awards. Robyn “Rihanna” Fenty established CLF in 2012 as an organization to improve communities around the globe, and so far has established an oncology and nuclear medicine treatment center as well as granting funds to more than 100 schools in Barbados.

She has also worked to raise awareness for HIV/AIDS and has donated thousands of dollars to relief programs in the wake of disasters such as Hurricane Sandy and Typhoon Haiyan.

Rihanna is far from the only charitable celebrity, though, and dozens more offer scholarships to students in need as well. Fellow musicians Tony Bennett, Will.i.am, and Quincy Jones extend financial aid opportunities to qualifying students, as well as actors Alec Baldwin, Kirk Douglas, Kevin Spacey, and more.

Athletes from Derek Jeter to LeBron James also offer scholarships and college payment assistance; Mr. James last year announced full rides for at-risk children in Ohio's Akron Public Schools system who stay involved with LeBron James Family Foundation mentorship programming through high school.

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