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UGA student pays off entire tuition thanks to TikTok

"I have no debts in my name," said Leon Ondieki, who said his TikTok videos make him up to $400 a day.

ATHENS, Ga. — When you hear the word 'influencer,' you might picture kids wasting hours upon hours on social media. But for many, it has become a full time career. 

11Alive caught up with 19-year-old Leon Ondieki as he was filming a TikTok on University of Georgia's campus between his classes.

He stands silently outside the Tate Student Center, holding a sign that read: “Call your mom. Tell her you love her. Get $20."

He's not there for 10 seconds before a gaggle of students rush toward him.

"You're the guy from TikTok," one exclaims.

As they all fumble for their phones, they excitedly urge one another: "Call your mom, call your mom!"

The first student to connect with their mother proudly punches the speakerphone button.

"Hey mom, I just wanted to say I love you," they said.

He beams at Ondieki as his mother's voice gushes out, full of emotion.

"I love you too, that's so sweet!" She sniffs. "You just made my day. I love you buddy so, so much."

Ondieki hands over $20.

“As a creator, you only have 60 seconds to three minutes really to create a video that it's going to engage people," Ondieki explained.

That’s exactly what he’s done, amassing nearly 1.5 million followers in two years being an influencer.

“I really started teaching myself how to edit videos, teaching myself how to record videos, how to use a camera," he said.

If it sounds like a full time job, that's because it is.

“There's a lot that goes into creating a video," he said. "It is a legitimate job.”

Plus it pays, thanks to ads, sponsors, and TikTok's Creator Fund.

The college sophomore said from TikTok alone, he's making up to $400 a day.

It’s allowed him to already pay off his entire education.

“My tuition, books, everything. All of my college expenses have been paid," he said. "It takes a lot of stress because I know in the future, as soon as I leave college, I have no debts in my name.”

He also gives away a large chunk of that income in his videos. 

Some require silly tasks to get the cash, declaring the first person to bring him a sprite will get $20, or prompting strangers to dump a gallon of water on their head in exchange for a flat screen TV.


bro didn’t hesitate #fyp #tv #uga #winterbreak #holidaymusic

♬ original sound - Leon Ondieki

In others, Ondieki freely hands out large tips to servers and drive through workers.

“I've always had a passion for helping others," he said. "I was actually born in Kenya. I came to the U.S. When I was 5. You don't realize how many people are out there who don't have a lot of the things which you do take for granted over here."

He said his parents' support and work ethic encouraged him to start creating videos in the first place.

"Seeing my parents go to work and do everything that they did to get to the point where they were, was and still is an inspiration to me," he said.

Social media can get a bad reputation, but Leon is one of many proving they're worth a follow.

You can follow Leon on TikTok here.


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