February 19, 2020 (NEW YORK, N.Y.)—ESSENCE, the number one media, technology and commerce company serving Black women, and Freeform, Walt Disney Television’s young adult television network, announce the launch of grown-ish and Broke—a debt payout program for students with undergraduate and student loans. ESSENCE and Freeform launched this innovative program to give students a financial head start so that they can focus on their future. Student loan debt is now the second highest consumer debt category, with more than 45 million borrowers owing nearly $1.6 trillion in the United States and nearly 85% of Black bachelor’s degree recipients carrying student debt.

Submissions for grown-ish and Broke will be accepted from February 20-April 30th. Entrants should upload a :60 second video or 300-word essay detailing how paying off their loans would be a dream come true. Award categories include a grand prize up to $75,000; first prize up to $50,000; and second prize up to $25,000.  In addition, all winners will receive an amazing trip with a guest to the 2020 ESSENCE Festival of Culture in New Orleans (July 3-5).


Currently airing on Thursdays at 8 P.M. (ET)/(PT) on Freeform, the junior year season of grown-ish follows the gang as they return as confident, eager and seasoned upper-classmen. With new living dynamics, shocking life changes, daunting repercussions and reality kicking in, they quickly realize that they have been mistaken about the disillusionment of adulthood. The series continues to dive into challenges facing real-life students including student loans, work/life balance, mental health, self-care, and of course, messy breakups.

“The ESSENCE and Freeform grown-ish and Broke partnership is helping to raise awareness of the serious issue of student loan debt that affects so many people—especially within the Black community,” said Michelle Ebanks, CEO of ESSENCE Communications, Inc. “It is critical that more opportunities and programs that address the alleviation of this financial hardship be created so that our next generation can focus on making their dreams come true.”

“As ‘grown-ish’ continues to dive into these relatable topics on the show, we’re so excited to be able to help bring a small contribution to those facing them in real-life,” said Jamila Hunter, SVP, Current Series and Alternative Programming, Freeform. “We hope that ‘grown-ish’ fans and students everywhere will find this opportunity as a way to kickstart their futures, with the help of our partners at Essence.”

The topic of student debt will be a featured storyline in an upcoming episode of “grown-ish” airing THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 20 (8:00 P.M. EST), as one of the show’s characters, Aaron, played by Trevor Jackson, comes face-to-face with his looming student loans.

For more details on how to enter, visit

Freeform’s “grown-ish” is produced by ABC Signature Studios, a part of Disney Television Studios, and executive produced by Kenya Barris, Julie Bean, Jenifer Rice-Genzuk Henry, Craig Doyle, Anthony Anderson, Laurence Fishburne, Helen Sugland and E. Brian Dobbins. In the 2019/20 TV season to-date, grown-ish ranks as the #1 live action cable comedy series among women 18-34 and women 18-49. “grown-ish” is also the #1 live action cable comedy series of the season to-date among African American adults 18-34 and adults 18-49.

About Freeform

Freeform connects to audiences with bold original programming and immersive social engagement that moves the cultural conversation a little forward. As Walt Disney Television’s young adult television network, Freeform channels the force and momentum of its audience in its quest for progress with authentic, groundbreaking original series such as “grown-ish,” “The Bold Type,” “Good Trouble,” “Siren,” “Party of Five,” “Motherland: Fort Salem” and “Everything’s Gonna Be Okay.” The network also programs tentpole events such as “31 Nights of Halloween,” “Kick Off to Christmas” and “25 Days of Christmas.”

Source: The Nielsen Company, Live+7 Day U.S. Program Ratings for linear TV; grown-ish S3 premiere on 1/16/20; cable series ranks based on 9/30/19-1/26/20.  Total viewership (linear and digital) based on internal multiplatform ratings (1/16-1/23/20).