Dumfries teen, championed by late grandmother, wins spot at Juilliard

From Dumfries, Virginia, to Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, a few blocks from Broadway, Colgan High School senior Jawuan Hill has done the hard work to earn a spot in The Juilliard School.

Now he’s ready to step on stage.

The 18-year-old is in the midst of raising $35,000 he needs to attend Juilliard, the conservatory for the performing arts located in the Lincoln Center. The school costs about $80,000 per year.

But that’s skipping to the second act.

Throughout high school, Hill’s biggest fan and supporter was his grandmother, Idella Crawford, who encouraged him to go to Juilliard.

“She always told me, ‘You’re gonna go,'” Hill said. “She actually paid for my Juilliard application, because she was like, ‘You’re gonna go there.'”

Hill took a job at Burger King, to earn extra money for theater training.

With performances in talent shows and school performances, including at Duke Ellington School of the Arts in D.C., Hill was in the process of applying to Juilliard while his grandmother was sick with ovarian cancer.

She stayed up late with him, as he worked on his essays, and died in January, as Hill was doing his Juilliard auditions.

“To deal with that pain and watch her go through that, that’s also something that fuels me,” Hill told NBC Washington. “She fought hard, and she wanted me to be successful.”

A few months after his grandmother’s death, Hill learned that out of thousands of applicants, he was one of 19 students selected to study in the Drama School for Bachelor of Fine Arts, in what he calls his “dream school.”

“Getting that call was one of the best experiences of your life,” Hill said. “You realize that you fought and you worked so hard to get here.”

Now, after securing partial scholarships for the approximately $80,000 needed for tuition, housing, books and material, Hill established a GoFundMe page, to raise the $35,000 he doesn’t have.

By Thursday morning, donations were approaching $25,000.

“I will never forget your generosity and vow to pay it forward when it’s my turn,” he wrote on the GoFundMe page.

After graduating Juilliard, one of Hill’s goals is providing affordable training for young artists.

“I want to get to a place where I can help some of those people,” Hill told NBC Washington.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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