Whisonant makes tuition easy

Published 11:07 am Friday, October 28, 2016

One Longwood University alumna was inspired by her college experience to help others afford a higher education.

Stacie Whisonant spent much of her time in Kenbridge while growing up in South Hill and worked her way through college in Farmville, at Longwood University. Now she splits her time between New York City and Washington, D.C.

The 35-year-old’s journey to graduation was not an easy one. Whisonant lists her grandparents as one of her greatest support groups. They are sharecroppers from Kenbridge who were unable to earn an education. Yet, despite her grandfather’s lack of education, he always encouraged Whisonant and her relatives to go to school.

Her aunt, Hattie Farrar, was the first in the family to graduate college — at Longwood University — in 1995. Whisonant fondly remembers visiting her aunt and realizing she, too, could go to college.

While at Longwood, Whisonant joined the U.S. Army to help fund her education. She took classes during the week; on the weekends, she went to Fort Pickett in Blackstone.

“Being in Farmville and attending Longwood taught me the value of education and being a citizen leader,” Whisonant said.

In 2003, she graduated with a degree in Business Administration. Following graduation, she continued to serve in the Army until 2006.

Later, she worked in the sales division at HSBC, one of the world’s largest international banks.

Despite the obstacles, Whisonant is now CEO and Founder of her own company, Pay Your Tuition (PYT) Funds Inc. The company aims to help families afford tuition by utilizing crowdfunding, donor fundraising and connecting families with low interest loans.

Not only is Whisonant running PYT, but she is also a recipient of S&R Foundation’s Halcyon Incubator Fellowship.

The fellowship accepts only 4 percent of applicants each year. Those who are chosen receive five months of free housing in Washington, D.C., along with $10,000 for their business.

Whisonant will be matched with mentors and advisors during her time as a fellow to help further her business.

She hopes to be able to help families all across the country get access to the capital they need in a more socially responsible way. She ultimately wants to bring down interest rates and find new ways to repay debt.

Halcyon Program Coordinator Mike Malloy said, “Stacie is an incredible social entrepreneur, and PYT Funds is changing the funding landscape for low-income students who need additional capital to complete their education.”

Malloy said the fellowship is “a safe haven for social entrepreneurs who seek to make the world a better place.”

In addition to the fellowship, Whisonant is the recipient of the Points of Light Investment and the winner of the world’s largest financial technology accelerator from New York City.

Whisonant is proud to have overcome many challenges in her journey, including being both a minority and a female in an industry that has few of either.

However, it is her family’s history that motivates her. She boasts of her seven relatives who also attended Longwood.

The reminder of the Moton School and watching eight African-American female family members graduate from Longwood motivates Whisonant to push forward through all the challenges.

This gives her the drive to “help more families get educated so that we can truly being to see social change within our community.”

Everyone can help with change whether it’s in a big way or a small way, she said.

“Every hand, every dollar can help, big or small. Social change affects everyone directly and indirectly.”

Whisonant encouraged anyone who wants to help to start with just one dollar.