There's a whole world of college scholarships out there—for knitters and golf caddies, pet lovers and the left-handed—and as silly as some may sound, they're potential life changers. So how in the World Wide Web do you stumble upon the $10,000 "Duck Tape Stuck at Prom" prize? (Yes, it's real.) With a little help from Scholly, a streamlined scholarship-finding app conceived in 2014 by Christopher Gray, 25. To date, the tool has helped more than 750,000 high schoolers, undergrads, and graduate students discover lesser-known awards based on race, talent, and everything in between.

The idea for Gray's college-funding platform came from personal experience: Raised by a single mom in Birmingham, Alabama, he was always determined to become the first in his family to finish college. Knowing academic advancement wouldn't be cheap, he went off to find golden opportunities. "Our home didn't have internet, so I had to wait to use the computer at the public library," says Gray, who began his quest in 2009. After seven months of scrappy yet scrupulous searching, he drummed up $1.3 million in scholarships to attend Drexel University and even cover future graduate school expenses. But he couldn't shake how frustrating his search had been, and he saw a way to make it easier for others.

For every student Gray helps, he's reminded of one who needed a hand years ago. "My uncle never learned to read, but he can fix anything you give him," says Gray. "He could have been an engineer—and that's why I want to give people the tools they need to excel."

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