Five deserving Sallie Mae customers today are celebrating paying " Sallie Mae Back" as winners of Sallie Mae's and Dee-1's "Pays to Repay" contest. The collaboration between the nation's saving, planning, and paying for college company and educator turned hip-hop artist rewarded customers who creatively described how paying for college had a positive effect on their future. Each had their eligible Sallie Mae student loan paid off by the company.

"I've traveled the country with Sallie Mae educating high school students and handing out scholarships, and now we've taken it a step further with this contest to help people feel that joy of paying off their student loans," said Dee-1. "That feeling, that experience, inspired me to write "Sallie Mae Back" and kicked off this incredible partnership, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it inspires these very deserving individuals."

Dee-1 and Sallie Mae officials met with Dee-1's "Pays to Repay" winners in Dee's hometown of New Orleans for a special ceremony and luncheon. Winners Julia Brockway-Marchello of New York, New York, Haley McIngvale of Pontotoc, Mississippi, Jose Lopez of Corona, California, Cynthia Osemwegie of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Ashley Waltho of Bayside, Wisconsin are all Sallie Mae private student loan customers. The winners were selected based on the concept, style, originality, and creativity of their entries.

Julia Brockway-Marchello, 32, of New York, New York, is currently completing her fellowship in hematology and medical oncology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan. She was inspired to become a doctor after being diagnosed with cancer and undergoing treatment in the sixth grade. Julia's oncologist encouraged her to share her experience with other kids, which eventually translated to a career in medicine. The life-saving knowledge Julia has gained continues to inspire and empower her to bring the best possible care to her patients.

Jose Lopez, 26, of Corona, California, is a second-year medical student at the University of California, Riverside School of Medicine. The son of Peruvian immigrants, Jose is the first in his family to attend college in the U.S. Jose used his Sallie Mae loan to help pay for his post-baccalaureate program in medicine.

Haley McIngvale, 28, of Pontotoc, Mississippi, received his Juris Doctorate in 2015 at the University of Mississippi School of Law. Paying off his student loan will allow Haley to focus on his dream of becoming an entrepreneur and opening a small business, as well as starting a college fund for his son.

Cynthia Osemwegie, 31, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, emigrated to the U.S. from Nigeria as a teenager and is the first in her family to attend college. A single parent, she's already completed her undergraduate degree and currently is working on her MBA with a concentration in health care management at Cambridge College in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Paying off her student loan will enable her to save more money for her daughter's education.

Ashley Waltho, 24, of Bayside, Wisconsin, recently earned a Bachelor of Science degree in health care administration from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. After growing up in a household with 12 siblings, she proudly became the first female in her family to graduate from college, and she was able to do so while working. Ashley is already putting the skills she learned in college to good use in her current role as an executive director at a skilled nursing facility.

"From being first in their family to attend college, to taking an entrepreneurial leap, to helping others, our contest winners are shining examples of the value of a higher education," said Martha Holler, senior vice president, Sallie Mae. "Like Dee-1, these inspiring individuals offer their perspectives on how college has changed their lives and, what's more, they are using their degrees to pay it forward. We are thrilled to partner with Dee not only to pay off their student loans, but also to share their stories."

In addition to Dee-1's "Pays to Repay" contest, Sallie Mae and Dee-1 partnered for " Dee-1's Knowledge for College" tour, which awarded $95,000 in scholarships to high school students in five states. Together, Sallie Mae and Dee-1 have awarded more than $130,000 in scholarships and loan payments to students and customers across the country. Dee-1 and Sallie Mae also released the " Pay Off Your Student Loans Playlist," a set of tips, tools, and resources to help students understand and manage student loan payments.

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Sallie Mae (Nasdaq: SLM) is the nation's saving, planning, and paying for college company. Whether college is a long way off or just around the corner, Sallie Mae offers products that promote responsible personal finance, including private education loans, Upromise rewards, scholarship search, college financial planning tools, and online retail banking. Learn more at Commonly known as Sallie Mae, SLM Corporation and its subsidiaries are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.

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