Pleasanton native's student debt erased by billionaire during college graduation  

PLEASANTON, Calif. (KGO) -- Jonathan Epps, 22, is making his family proud. He is one of two valedictorians for Morehouse College's class of 2019 and is a native of Pleasanton.

Epps went to Amador Valley High School and gave an impressive speech at Morehouse College on Sunday. However, the political science major was upstaged.

Epps was sitting in the sea of caps and gowns hanging on to the words of commencement speaker Robert F. Smith when something incredible happened.

"We're going to put a little fuel in your bus," Smith said. "This is my class 2019. My family is making a grant to eliminate their student loans."

Cheers began to erupt from the crowd.

Epps told ABC7 News, "We were kind of just looking around like, 'Did this man really just say that?'"

Epps believes he has somewhere between $30,000 and $35,000 dollars in student loan debt. His parents were going to help him pay it off. Thanks to Smith, they won't have to worry about it.

"That is just a tremendous investment he made in us," Epps said.

Smith is the richest Black man in America, a philanthropist and runs a private equity firm based in San Francisco.

He promised to pay off the student loan debt for Morehouse's class of 2019, that's nearly 400 students. Smith pledged up to $40 million.

"It's just...overwhelming gratitude for what he did," Epps said. "I think we'll all continue to feel that as the years go on."

Smith's only catch is that the Morehouse men pay it forward.

Epps is already working on it. He's a 2020 Fulbright scholar and will teach English in Brazil, then he's off to law school.
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