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Four years ago, Black Eyed Peas rapper, will.i.am launched the i.am scholarship program to provide future visionaries, leaders and innovators with financial assistance all for higher education. Along with his foundation, i.am.angel, will.i.am handpicked Jaiquann, Elijah, Darien and Barien, who were all accepted to their dream universities, but didn’t have the money to actually attend. It’s been five years since these men were given full rides to the school of their dreams and we’re checking in to see what each of them have accomplished.

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Each of these gentlemen were invited to “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in 2009 to share their inspiring stories about motivating one another to make amazing grades in school and Oprah surprised them with an appearance from will.i.am. And little did they know that will.i.am would gift them with the first-ever i.am scholarships. “I know my purpose is to continue to inspire young people because it’s just going to keep inspiring me back. I want to do my part. I want to invest in America’s future and I want to send you to college. i.am here to let you know that you can be anything you want to be. You are the future of the world,” says will.i.am.

And now, five years later, the teens appeared on “Oprah: Where Are They Now?” to show us what they were able to do with will.i.am’s gift. Elijah graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in May. “I want to get into the architectural field, so it’s just been a lot of years of hard work,” he says. According to Huffington Post:

Jaiquann earned his degree in education from Cabrini College and is now a teacher. He admits that he was holding back tears when he found about about the scholarship. “I was cheesing really, really hard,” he says. “Because I was trying so hard not to cry on national TV.”

Each young man has very specific and unfortunate circumstances that could have easily made them turn to the streets, but they were all determined. “I live with my grandmother, my mom, and my sister,” Jaiquann told  in 2009. “I grew up being the only man of the house.”

Darien is currently attending Morgan State University in Baltimore with plans to graduate with an industrial engineering degree next year. “I’ve also been working at a company that builds helicopters, and it’s been amazing,” he says. “I’ve been fortune enough to have a full-time position lined up for once I graduate.”

Barien, who says he was “flabbergasted” when will.i.am surprised them, is now in his second year of pharmacy school and says he will be graduating in 2016.

“For will.i.am. to give us the opportunity to go to college and get a quality education is something that I’ll remain grateful for the rest of my life,” Darien adds.

And grateful is right. Each of these amazing men are using will.i.am’s gift and paying it forward. “We’ve been going to a lot of elementary, middle and high schools just talking to the youth about how important it is to maintain high grades, how important it is to go to college,” Jaiquann says. “Basically, do whatever it takes to follow your dreams and meet your goals in life.

How amazing right? This is the way that gifts should work–they should always keep giving. Way to go will.i.am and Jaiquann, Darien, Barien and Elijah!


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