Kamaka Dias, 27, graduated from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, and made the decision to pay off his debt as quickly as possible after calculating what his expenses under a loan repayment plan would look like.
“I think it would have been like $500 a month for like 10 years, and I would have paid like $70,000,” the Hilo native told KHON2, “so I was like, ‘Nope! I’m not going to do that.’”
Dias then launched his mission at the beginning of 2020, calling it “The Race to $50K.”
He worked almost every day, documenting every job, gig, chore, and milestone on his Instagram page as the dollars mounted. Rather than charging for his time, he asked employers to give what they wanted.
Working between Hilo and Oahu, Dias’s list of odd jobs soon grew diverse. “I picked up groceries, cupcakes, flowers, food, weed-whacked, planted trees, cleared bushes, raked leaves, painted, did dump runs. Everything!” he told Hawaii News Now.
However, it wasn’t all manual labor for the industrious graduate. He even officiated a close friend’s wedding, walked and bathed dogs, and even dressed up as Buzz Lightyear of “Toy Story” for a 3-year-old’s birthday party.
During this period of time, Dias lived with his parents to save money and used every opportunity to be frugal like not opting to eat an acai bowl that looked tempting until he finished his goal and could finally treat himself. Word of mouth of his mission earned Dias more and more job opportunities, and by the end of the year, he had logged over 300 different assignments.
“People have been inspired by the hustle,” he said, crediting huge community support for his success even during the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus, pandemic. One kind donor even gave Dias a car to drive himself to jobs.
To give back to his supportive community, Dias even donated his stimulus check toward gift packs for hundreds of high school seniors.
Dias made his final loan repayment in December 2020. In total, he paid off $53,757 in just 11 months, proving to graduates with loan debt everywhere that where there’s a will, there’s always a way.
“[T]his journey finally comes to an end,” Dias wrote on Dec. 6 on Instagram. “I’m finally free, the weight is off my shoulder and I can’t wait to start the next chapter in my life…DEBT FREE!!”
“I asked for it, so yeah it’s on me,” he said of his student loans. “It’s my responsibility to pay it back. So, I wanted to show people that if you live a certain way, and you just work hard, you can do it.”
Dias plans to write a book about his experience to further inspire others.
Watch a video of Kamaka Dias at one of his jobs:
(Courtesy of Kamaka Dias)
This story was last updated in January 2021.