Class of 2022 Debt-Free Otis College Graduates

It’s something every student and maybe their parents dream of hearing: a donor canceling student loans.

Suhey Elias was one of 285 graduates whose college debt was fully repaid, thanks to the largest donation in school history.

The gift came from Snapchat co-founder Evan Spiegel and his wife Miranda Kerr. Spiegel took summer classes at the Otis College of Art and Design while in high school before attending Stanford and launching Snapchat, making him the world’s youngest billionaire in 2015.

“I was just screaming. I looked at everyone around me. We were all crying. I believe it’s something I will never, ever forget,” Elias said.

She majored in fine art with a major in painting and commuted every morning from Altadena. Her parents said they would cover loans and school fees so she could focus on her works. Then his mother died in his first year, leaving the financial responsibility to his father.

“He had to take two jobs, do Uber. It meant a lot to him, so to hear that everything was paid for, it really meant a lot to me,” Elias said.

The donation wiped out his $60,000 in student loans. According to Otis College, over 90% of students receive financial aid.

“When I arrived here, I was very [into] acrylic paint, nothing else, but now I go from here sculpting with clay or working with oil paints, or even sewing,” she said.

Elias has a passion for making dioramas, which are entirely handcrafted. As part of her senior project, she took stories from her family members and turned them into works of art.

“After a very stressful day, I can just pull out a sketchbook and draw or I can paint my little figures or paint my paintings. I feel relaxed. I’m feeling good. I’m like, ‘Phew, it’s going to be fine,'” she said.

And in a way, Elias feels she also honors her mother, who aspired to be a fashion designer.

“Since I’ve been here, I’ve kind of been living his dream of being an art student. It’s very touching,” she said.

And without student loans weighing her down, she can focus on her next steps – working with the Gong Art Gallery in Newport Beach to exhibit some of her art to the world.

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