Louisiana Dollar Dream

Destrehan’s Brittany Holtsclaw launches Web site to help raise money for college

Heather R. Breaux
July 16, 2008 at 2:30 pm  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Above, Destrehan native Brittany Holtsclaw set up a Web site to raise money for college.
Photos provided by Brittany Holtsclaw
Above, Destrehan native Brittany Holtsclaw set up a Web site to raise money for college.
Destrehan native Brittany Holtsclaw is living her dream. As a student studying drama and theater at New York’s prestigious New York University, she hopes to obtain her bachelor’s degree and have the freedom to pursue a career in the arts.

But there’s one problem, Holtsclaw isn’t sure how she’s going to pay for her next semester of college. And if she doesn’t come up with the $20,508 for tuition, then she may not graduate.

“I’ve been at NYU for only two years and my student loans are an astronomical $80,000,” said Holtsclaw. “And this doesn’t include the cost of my last semester.”

So, she’s asking for help. With the June launch of her “Louisiana Dollar Dream” Web site, Holtsclaw is asking for $1 donations in hopes to collect $75,000. The money would help pay for her last semester of school and the majority of her student loans.

“Sometimes a small sacrifice for one person can make the greatest difference in another person’s life,” she said. “So, I figured that if people were willing to make one small sacrifice by donating a dollar, then I could collect a great deal of money that would change my life and allow me to continue to pursue my dream.”

Holtsclaw says that she got the idea of starting an donation Web site while browsing the popular social-networking site, MySpace.

“I was on my computer and came across a MySpace page that had a link that allowed users to donate money for a particular cause,” she said. “I asked myself, ‘Why couldn’t I try to use the Internet to help me afford college?’ I had nothing to lose and everything to gain, so I decided to give it a try.”

Holtsclaw backs her cause by proclaiming that she has a dream and she’s not afraid to follow it.

“Everyone has a dream, but not everyone is brave enough to follow it,” said Holtsclaw. “Some people spend their entire lives wondering what could have been. But I have this fire inside that just won’t quit.”

A dream begins

After graduating from Destrehan High School in 2005, Holtsclaw decided to audition for a spot in NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. But three days before her audition, her parents broke the news that they were getting divorced.

“While I did audition, I wasn’t as I was as focused as I should have been,” said Holtsclaw. “And sure enough, I didn’t get in. I decided to attend Loyola University in New Orleans for a year or two and then re-apply. Little did I know that life was about to throw me a few curve balls.”

Aug. 29, 2005 was supposed to be Holtsclaw’s first day of college, but instead she was evacuated in Houston watching the wrath of Hurricane Katrina on television.

The storm was a devastating blow for not only her academic life, but for her personal life as well.

“My father is a retired New Orleans police officer and was in his 23rd year of service when the storm hit,” said Holtsclaw. “For days I couldn’t contact him because the cell phones weren’t working. I had no idea if he was dead or alive.”

Holtsclaw’s dad survived the storm by living out of a Wal-Mart in the days that followed. And eventually, she learned that Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge would open their arms to displaced students.

“I attended LSU for my first year, and while I really loved the school and Baton Rouge, I just had to try one last time to get into NYU,” she said.

In February 2006, Holtsclaw auditioned for NYU and, much to her surprise, was accepted.

“A few weeks after I received my acceptance letter, I got my financial aid packet in the mail,” said Holtsclaw. “And I was surprised that I didn’t qualify for more aid. My single-working mother and my police-officer father seemed to make too much money. I couldn’t get any substantial assistance.”

Holtsclaw was only approved for a $3,500 federal student loan for her first year at NYU. And while the Louisiana TOPS program covered her schooling at LSU, it wouldn’t pay for any out-of-state college costs.

“I applied for scholarships, but was never awarded any,” said Holtsclaw. “My parents graciously gave me whatever savings they had, which totaled around $20,000. But that didn’t even cover my first year at NYU.”

Over the next two years, Holtsclaw would be forced to take out more student loans.

The Web site

Holtsclaw’s fundraiser Web site is headlined with this quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams,” and poses this question to visitors, “Could you donate $1 to help a Louisiana girl stay in school?”

“I’m just a Louisiana girl trying to keep my dream alive,” said Holtsclaw. “I’m incredibly hard working and I attend class regularly and keep up my grades.”

“They say it takes a village to raise a child. Well Louisiana, you’re my village and I’m asking you to help ‘raise’ me,” said Holtsclaw.

Holtsclaw vows that all donations will go directly into her school savings account and claims that after she raises all the money she needs that the Web site will be closed.

“I’m not looking to pull a fast one or get over on anyone,” she said. “This is a legitimate plea and I’m happy to speak with anyone willing to help out.”

In addition to school, Holtsclaw is currently holding down three jobs.

“I am a nanny for two families, I babysit all across New York City and I work for a company called parentP-L-A-Y,” said Holtsclaw. “I’m tying my hardest to put myself through school, but with New York’s high cost of living, I barely make enough to pay my rent and buy groceries.”

Holtsclaw doesn’t believe that something as transient as money should be able to decide her future and hopes that the launching of her Web site will help her situation and let her decide the future for herself.

“Using the Internet to help a student afford college is a novel idea and is totally in sync with the fast-paced, super-connected cyber culture we live in,” said Holtsclaw. “If anything I hope that people applaud my creativity and resourcefulness. When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade ... and advertise it on the Internet.”

For more information or to make a donation, visit www.myspace.com/louisianadollardream.

Holtsclaw volunteered at Destrehan Plantation.
Holtsclaw in class at NYU.
HOLTSCLAW’S SPACE. NYU student Brittany Holtsclaw started this MySpace Web site in an effort to raise money for her last semester of college. She is a native of Destrehan.

View other articles written Heather R. Breaux

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