EXCLUSIVE: Demetrius Harmon expands his You Matter University brand with a scholarship give-back
Five ambitious, forward-thinking people can count themselves as You Matter University alumni, thanks to founder Demetrius Harmon and his latest partnership with Scholly.
You Matter University is Harmon’s three-year-old brainchild, born from his desire to want people to know they’re not alone.
“This human experience is so similar,” Harmon, who has been open about his own issues with depression and self harm, told theGrio. “With social media, everyone is so connected, but there’s also a disconnect where things can get lost in translation.”
He says the online community, complete with “school pride” paraphernalia, was his chance to create a sense of interconnectedness and support for the generation that socializes online just as much (if not more than) as it does in person.
Harmon didn’t attend college. Instead, he took a nontraditional route and cultivated his social media community of more than a million followers (on IG alone) into businesses like You Matter.
“You Matter University was born out of my take of how school is supposed to be … but this is what I did instead. This is my alma mater.”
As the brand began to grow, Harmon hoped to give back to people with scholarships, but says he was unsure about the right way to put something like that together.
“Yahra Shahidi hipped me to Scholly,” Harmon said of his partnership with the app that pairs applicants with more than a hundred scholarships and takes away the hassle of searching out and weeding through applications.
Harmon and the app have given away five, $10,000 scholarships to deserving college students and entrepreneurs.
“I wanted [the scholarships] to be for entrepreneurs too because…I never saw a place for me in college,” he said, recalling a $2,000 prize he and his business partner won as high school freshmen that eventually launched their first clothing line. “But that didn’t mean I didn’t need help.”
Harmon said he wanted to make the application process as accessible as possible. Undergrads, graduate students, and people starting out on nontraditional entrepreneurship paths were encouraged to submit videos on Instagram and TikTok.
Last week, the scholarship winners were announced. The lucky recipients are Samuel Vallon, a first-year graduate student at the University of Central Florida; Ralphaina Dubuisson, a first-year graduate at Kennesaw State University; Karina Mendoza, a freshman at Dallas College Eastfield Campus; Nefertiti Luakabuanga, a junior at Wayne State University; and Patricia Montes Leon, a sophomore at the University of Nevada (New Mexico).
“I feel like I’d be forgetting about myself if I didn’t choose people who chose to go an alternative route,” he said. “I didn’t enter any scholarships when I was young,” explaining how overwhelmed he felt by feeling “like a small fish in a big pond.”
Harmon says it’s difficult to see too far into his future, but that he sees himself expanding his You Matter brand into physical locations that offer skills training for kids.
“If you grade a fish on how well it can fly it’s gonna fail,” he said. “You shouldn’t have to fit into a formal box to have a shot.”
Additional scholarship information is available through myScholly.com. And, in case you noticed that inventory is low, Harmon says he plans to be restocked on his popular You Matter University merch line in time for Black Friday sales.
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