There really is a Santa Claus and his real, government name is Fifth Third Bank.
On Wednesday, the Ohio-based bank surprised Jasmin Ford, a 30-year-old nurse and single mother, by paying off $150,000 in student loan debt.
“I still can’t find the words,” Ford told Good Morning America. “I’m off work again today and I’m just sort of pacing around and restless because I know my life is going to change.”
Ford received her bachelor’s degree in 2011 and became the first in her family to graduate from college. A few years later, she went back to school to get her nursing degree and, with no financial help from family, took out loans just to cover her rent and food, not to mention pay her tuition. She finished her Master’s degree in 2015 but still had no idea how or if she’d ever be able to pay off the massive deficit.
“I could not foresee when I’d be able to pay it off,” Ford said of her debt. “I just knew this was going to be a part of my life as long as I was alive unless there was some significant change, which—wow.”
Ford was chosen to be apart of a documentary that Fifth Third Bank was shooting on her student loan debt. On Wednesday she thought that the film crew was coming back to shoot some extra footage and had no idea that they had a bigger plan than even she could’ve imagined.
“The documentary in itself was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” she said. “I’m a South Side of Chicago nurse and I have a kid. That, in itself, is not that exciting, and I got to be in a documentary and I met some amazing people on the way.”
Mike Crawford, senior digital product manager at Fifth Third Bank, told GMA that Ford’s perseverance to become a nurse and her willingness to give back to the community made her an obvious choice.
“Her story was just so compelling and she’s such a passionate person who’s focused on changing the world and giving back, we just felt like we had to do this for her,” Crawford said. “She’s one of those people that we expect to be a ripple in the pond. If you make a difference for her, you make a difference for the community.”
Ford said now that she is student loan debt-free she can have even more time to spend with her son, Caleb, who will turn two in February. She also plans to pay it forward.
“I just imagine being able to spend more time physically with my family, not having to hustle, having mental freedom and with that, some spiritual freedom,” she said. “I can open myself to more experiences, opportunities and just be able to sit and be with my thoughts and be able to pursue what it is I came to do.”
She added that Caleb’s “life will be totally different. I’m so happy and so proud that I’m able to offer that to him more than anything else because he deserves it.”