HHS grad takes unique approach to funding college

A Luling college student who is following his dreams to become an animator is looking for help in funding his education through a unique method called crowdfunding.

Earlier this year, JP McGraw, 22, a 2009 graduate of Hahnville High School, embarked on his journey to become an animator. McGraw was first introduced to and fell in love with animation as a child and his appreciation of the art form progressed from watching cartoons to more complex computer animation movies such as “Toy Story.”  It was not until he was a junior in high school and attending the Satellite Center that McGraw began to make his first animations and learn the basics.

However, McGraw took a few years off from the art form to go to Delgado Community College in pursuit of a business degree. He also dedicated a lot of free time as a youth leader at First United Methodist Church in Luling, where he also taught Sunday school courses. But he continued to dream of becoming an animator. Upon further exploration, he realized that it may be possible for him to have a career in the field, but he would just have to make a commitment.

“I had always thought becoming an animator was sort of a dream job, not one that actually happens like a pro basketball player or a rock star or something. Then I started to find websites dedicated to amateur Flash animators and started seeing some of them go on to bigger things and make actual careers out of it,” he said. “I started realizing that being an animator was actually a possibility and not just a far-fetched dream.”

After making a trip to California last year, McGraw decided it was time to finally go after his dreams. The first generation college student had never lived outside of Luling, but he traveled to San Francisco to attend an elite animation program at the Academy of Art University.

“It’s been an adventure to say the least. I flew into San Francisco on Jan. 23 and moved into my room the next day. At first I was busy exploring the city, seeing the touristy places and trying out the food. Then classes started and I really got busy” he said. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s certainly helping me to learn and to build a demo reel for once I finish college to actually get a job.

“They’ve had me dive straight into animating, which is a blast. It’s tons of fun, but a huge amount of work at the same time. You definitely have to be passionate about what you’re doing to make it here.”

Although he is in the midst of the adventure of a lifetime, there is only one problem – McGraw does not have the ability to pay for a full year at the school.

“I’ve already maxed out my grants and loans for the year and I only have enough to pay for the first semester,” he said.

To help fund his education, McGraw came upon a unique solution. He signed up for an online account at Go Fund Me in an attempt at crowdfunding his education. Although crowdfunding has become more and more prevalent for consumers to raise funds for inventors, writers or musicians in exchange for their finished products, education crowdfunding is a newer concept.

McGraw said he had not heard of other students trying to fund their education in this way, but he was willing to try it.

“It started as just a way for some family and friends to be able to easily help me out with school, and it did a well enough job at that. Then as it got a bit bigger, people I didn’t even know started to donate to me,” McGraw said. “I figured there was no reason to keep them from doing so – if they want to help me achieve my dream, I’ll be thoroughly thankful and appreciative. After all, every bit helps.”

Instead of offering traditional goods and services in exchange for funding, McGraw is offering everything from a high five for $5 to hugs, public “thank yous” and buttons and stickers he created for different funding levels up to $100.

McGraw has raised a few hundred dollars, but he is hoping more people from the St. Charles Parish community will reach out and help him attain his goal of $7,000 to help him continue his education.

For now, McGraw has already begun posting his new animations to his Youtube account and a clip is available above. For more information on how you may be able to help McGraw achieve his dreams, take a look at his crowdfunding campaign at www.gofundme.com/tuitionforaau.


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