Penn State University student Joshua Johnson travels by bus five hours each way between the college and New York City, where he tap dances on the subway to help raise the $6,000 he needs each year for tuition, books, meal plans, and other bills.

Campus Progress spoke with Johnson, the first person in his family to attend college and who was recently featured in The New York Times and other media outlets, including an appearance Wednesday on The Ellen Show.

“Since freshmen year, I’ve been traveling back and forth to tap dance on the New York City subways. That’s how I raised most of my money for school, along with donations. I remember in my senior year, after I graduated from high school, that summer I really had to figure out how I was going to get money for school.

“It came down to the last two weeks before my freshmen year started and I still needed roughly $3,000. I raised $1,000 through tap and I still didn’t have enough. Two days before I got in, a lady from College For Every Student (a non-profit group that offers mentoring and leadership programs) that thought I was a great guy and I told her my situation and she wrote a check for $2,000 and it was amazing. That’s how I got in, and ever since then I’ve just been raising money through tapping—doing street performances—just to stay in.”

To see Johnson tap and tell his story on The Ellen Show, visit

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