Six Philadelphia students received the surprise of a lifetime Monday night when comedian and actor Kevin Hart announced he was giving them some help with college expenses.
That is, the Philly native told them he and the United Negro College Fund will lay out $600,000 to help the students — and 12 others from around the country — realize their dream of attending college.
The six students are Jada Taylor, Alexys Smith, Marjani Walton, Willie Smalls, Wayne Fuller, and Casey Adams. All graduated from KIPP Philadelphia charter schools.
The Hart scholarship — a partnership between the comedian's charity, KIPP, and the UNCF — was awarded based on students' academic and personal achievements and may be renewed.
Each honoree will attend a historically black college. Taylor will enroll in Clark Atlanta University in the fall; Smith and Walton will study at Lincoln University; Smalls and Fuller will attend Morehouse College; and Adams will soon begin studies at Spelman College.
"Education and knowledge are powerful," Hart said in a statement. "I just wanted to do my part in providing opportunities for our future leaders, especially from my Philly hometown, and show support for HBCUs. This is just the beginning; trust me when I tell you there are a lot more kids who want to go to college who don't have the money to make it happen."
The announcement, made in Los Angeles, was a closely held secret. Hart, who grew up in North Philadelphia and graduated in 1997 from George Washington High School, wanted to deliver the news to the students in person, officials said.
The scholarships are not Hart's first gift to UNCF. In 2015, he donated $100,000 to support four students' college education.
Michael L. Lomax, UNCF president, said that Hart's gift will support not just students, but historically black colleges and universities.
"Research shows that HBCUs matter, and that HBCU students are having a positive college experience, but they also have an unmet financial need," Lomax said in a statement. "Together, Kevin and KIPP have made an investment that will have a significant impact."