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ALERT: Help Support Drexel Student Zakiya James


Zakiya James
When I was in 6th grade my math teacher said to my mom, "I was  a very sweet girl, but not that smart." This was my first year in public school. My mom had always volunteered, acted as the school janitor or done whatever other job that was needed so I could attend a small Montessori school. Unfortunately they closed and I was left in what was thought to be a good school.  I had always been a pretty good  student, but there, I struggled and did not understand why.  - Zakiya James

I am writing a quick e-mail asking for support for a remarkable young woman who is trying to figure out how to pay for college. Despite coming from difficult circumstances, Drexel student Zakiya James has big dreams. She plans on being a civil engineer and is ambitious too—wants to get a doctorate by the time she’s 25. Eventually, Zakiya wants to run her own engineering firm. Unfortunately, the staggering cost of college is threatening her dreams.

Thankfully, there is a way to help. Zakiya has set up a “Crowd Funding” page to help fund her college education. This website allows people from all over the world (including many strangers) contribute to a fund to pay for her college education. You can read her message to below and find a link to her page.

Please share this e-mail with your friends, family, and co-workers. Together, we can ensure that every person has access to a high quality college education.


Vincent Hughes   

Zakiya James Civil Engineer

When I was in 6th grade my math teacher said to my mom, "I was a very sweet girl, but not that smart." This was my first year in public school. My mom had always volunteered, acted as the school janitor or done whatever other job that was needed so I could attend a small Montessori school. Unfortunately they closed and I was left in what was thought to be a good school. I had always been a pretty good student, but there, I struggled and did not understand why.

My mom was determined to get me out of that school. She found another small private school that had scholarship money. Again the deal was that she did a lot of volunteer work to keep me there. This new school allowed me to thrive. Believe it or not, my best subject became math. Like all good things, the money ran out and for 9th grade I was back in public school. It was shell shock all over again. The teachers were overwhelmed and I eased my way through. The joke in our house was my little brother had more homework than me. My mom being that tiger wolf parent was not satisfied. Probably because I was starting to drift into indifference.

Next thing I know my mom signed me up to take a placement test at the University of the District of Columbia. I assumed I would just take the test and maybe take a course over the summer to appease my mother. I placed into freshman English and was accepted as a High Skip student. (High Skip is a program where you can take college courses while enrolled in high school). My mom being extra somehow managed to enroll me as a full time student. So at 14 I started college and never went back to high school. To manage tuition, my grandparents and other family and friends pitched in to cover the cost. University of the District of Columbia Community College (UDC) was less expensive than private school so it worked out.

Believe it or not I excelled at the community college and was able to transfer to the Flagship, UDC. There I majored in Civil Engineering, made the Dean's List and got involved in student engineering clubs on campus. The summer of 2014 I was accepted into the prestigious REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) program at Duke University known as CEINT (Center for the Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology). It was a paid internship where I was able to spend 10 weeks living and working on Duke's campus. I successfully completed the program with great recommendations from my professor.

After my experience at Duke, I knew I had to find a school that had more hands on research opportunities as part of their curriculum. I decided the best thing for me was to transfer to a university with more opportunities. I began my research and found a few schools with Spring admissions that I thought would be a perfect fit for me. Applications were due in a month which gave me very little time to complete the applications. My first choice was Drexel University, in Philadelphia Pennsylvania and after one and half weeks of submitting my application, I got an email followed by an official letter of my acceptance.

My hard work paid off and all my transfer credits were accepted. So at 17 I was classified as a junior studying Civil Engineering at a top notch university with $70K a year tuition cost. I did get a small scholarship from Drexel, but it is not nearly enough to cover the cost. Due to this short time period of my acceptance, my financial package has been delayed. However,I took the leap of faith, paid my housing deposit and am halfway through my first quarter. I need your help with tuition cost for my first two quarters. (Drexel is on a quarter system).

Zakiya James
Zakiya James, 17, a junior at Drexel, took a placement test to enroll in college before she even graduated from high school. She wants to get her Ph.d in engineering by the time she's 25 but is hampered by financial difficulties.
- Photo by

Drexel Student, 17, Hopes to Engineer Some Online Tuition Help

Jenice Armstrong, Daily News Columnist

DREXEL University junior Zakiya James didn't graduate from high school, or even spend much time there. She never took the SATs or got a GED.

None of that stopped the 17-year-old from becoming a Drexel Dragon in January. Since transferring to the school, she has been thriving, taking a host of heavy-duty engineering courses.

But there's one small problem: Zakiya's parents can't afford Drexel's pricey tuition. Not by a long shot.

Continue Reading »

Just How High Can College Tuition Go?

By Jeffrey J. Selingo | March 2, 2015

Twenty-one years ago, as I entered my senior year in college, my alma mater reached a significant milestone: the price tag passed the $20,000 mark. Today, tuition, fees, room, and board for a senior at Ithaca College are more than twice that, at about $53,000.

Now, of course, Ithaca and most other private colleges and universities rightfully argue that just a small percentage of students pay those “sticker prices” because schools give out boatloads of financial aid (read: discounts). They’re right. The average discount for first-year students at private colleges is 46 percent.

Continue Reading »

Learn more about the issues and provide your feedback on my website at as well as on Facebook and Twitter (@SenatorHughes).

Offices of State Senator Vincent Hughes

4950 Parkside Avenue | Suite 300
Philadelphia, PA 19131
Phone: 215.879.7777
Fax: 215.879.7778
Senate Box 203007
Harrisburg, PA 17120-3007
Phone: 717.787.7112
Fax: 717.772.0579
Zakiya James Civil Engineer