Jesse Williams at the BET Awards. (Matt Sayles / Invision/AP)
As a former high school teacher, actor/activist Jesse Williams has seen how low income can impact students’ quests for higher education. And over the weekend, he partnered with an app that works to help students secure scholarships.
Williams has joined the board of Scholly, a mobile app that helps students find college scholarships that they are eligible for.
“The road to a quality education is littered with real and systematic obstacles in desperate need of repair – not the least of which is expense,” Williams said in a new video that appears on his Facebook page and on Scholly’s website.
These days, Williams is known for his role on the hit show “Grey’s Anatomy.” But after graduating from Temple University, he taught high school students in Philadelphia’s public school system.
“Like so many teachers across this country, I had to watch countless bright, talented, ambitious, smart students unable to even sniff their true potential, because they weren’t born into this web of resources that was necessary for students to really thrive in this rigged system,” Williams said.
Scholly was created by Christopher Gray, who won $1.3 million in scholarships as a high school student. The way the app works is simple: users enter information about themselves, and the app returns a list of scholarships that students can apply for.
Gray brought the app onto “Shark Tank,” a hit reality show that allows fledgling entrepreneurs to pitch their businesses to moguls for feedback, investment capital and expertise. Scholly landed a deal with Daymond John and Lori Greiner, and became the #1 overall app in the iOS App Store and the Google Play Store for over three weeks.
Since it was founded, Gray said, the app has helped students raise over $50 million in scholarship money. Williams said Gray’s story inspired him “personally and professionally.”
“He hunkered down and built something real that can help others,” Williams said. “…What we know is there is no substitute for equal access, and there’s certainly no substitute for a quality education. Scholly helps us get there, together.”
is a journalist who covers music, pop culture, film/TV, race, culture and social justice. He is an editor at Okayplayer, and his work has appeared in Complex, Billboard, Guardian, NPR, MTV, Ebony, HipHopDX, The Flint Journal-MLive, and other publications.