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Kiss Those Student Loans Goodbye

Shawn Agyeman was down on his luck last fall, having just lost his job as a research assistant at the University of Pittsburgh, his alma mater. With looming monthly student loan payments of around $200 a month hanging over his head, the recent college graduate was starting to worry about how he'd meet his debt obligations, fearful that creditors would harass his parents—who co-signed his loans—if he couldn't come up with the money. Then he got a phone call from the director of a new grass-roots nonprofit that he says changed his life. Raymar Hampshire, co-founder of a volunteer group called SponsorChange.Org, presented Agyeman with a tempting offer: volunteer in the local Pittsburgh community several hours a week and receive a stipend that would help to cover his looming student loan payments.

"When I heard about it, I said: 'I'd almost be a fool not to do this,'" says Agyeman, 25, who signed up for the pilot program in the spring of 2009 and will be doing it again this fall, with plans to earn $1,000 for his efforts. "I jumped all over it."