Ellen: Tap Dancer Josh Johnson Chegg Scholarship Surprise


Ellen: College Dancer Tuition

Ellen DeGeneres shared the story of an enterprising college student. Joshua Johnson is studying at Penn State University, but hails from Harlem, New York. His family struggled to make ends meet, and he wasn’t sure that his grades could get him into college.

Joshua was accepted by Penn State, and hoped that loans and grants would help him foot the bills. He was disappointed to discover that he still needed a lot more money.


Ellen: Tap Dancer Josh Johnson

Ellen surprised tap dancing Penn State student Josh Johnson with a check for his college expenses.

Ellen: Tap Dancing Penn State Student

With no other way of coming up with the money, Joshua started tap dancing on New York’s subways to raise money for his tuition. He takes a bus for five hours each weekend between New York City and Penn State to tap dance on the trains and make people smile.

“I owe $25,000 in loans,” he said. “I raise about $200-250 a weekend, and that’s even more than my off campus job pays.”


He uses the money to pay his expenses and tuition, but he still feels like he is scraping by. Traveling back and forth each weekend is also taking a toll on his grades, but he is committed to graduating.

Ellen Meets Josh Johnson Penn State Tap Dancer

Ellen flew Josh to LA to be a guest on her show. He said he couldn’t believe that he’d ended up on the show.

“You’re here because you make people happy,” Ellen said. “That that’s your goal, that you travel five hours to dance on a subway, knowing you’re going to make somebody’s journey a little happier.”

Ellen: How Josh Learned Tap

Ellen said she thinks Josh is amazing. He has been tap dancing for six years, since learning the skill in his middle school performing arts classes. He was inspired by the opportunities for improvisation and developed his talents over the years.

He said he seemed to naturally pick up the rhythms of tap dancing. “It just made sense to me,” he said. Ellen wondered if it’s dangerous to tap on the moving subways.

Josh uses the money he earns tap dancing to pay for meals, school expenses, and to help his mother, who currently lives in a shelter due to economic hardships. He makes a point to see her and his little brother each weekend.

Ellen: Tap Dancing Heckler

Josh said there is one rider in particular who heckles him while he tap dances on the subway. He was trying to drown out Josh’s speech, performance, and request for donations. But Josh figured out what the guy was up to and used the man’s heckling as the beat for his dancing.

Ellen: Josh’s Tap Performance

Because she is so blown away by his talent, Ellen asked Josh to perform for the audience, which he happily did. This guy has moves, and it’s great to see that people are keeping the art of tap dancing alive. It’s one of those talents we sometimes forget about because we don’t see it too often these days.

“When you see this guy in the subway, tip him,” Ellen said.

Ellen: Josh Johnson Chegg Scholarship

Of course that’s not all. Ellen had a huge surprise for Josh Johnson. Josh is studying communications and marketing at Penn State, and he uses tap dancing to help pay his education expenses.

Ellen teamed up with student network Chegg to give Josh a huge tip. Chegg gave Josh a $35,000 check to put toward his education expenses.

She also threw in a pair of top quality tap shoes for Josh Johnson. I wonder if he’ll still continue his tap habit now that he isn’t scraping by anymore.



  1. says

    I first met Joshua Johnson on a New York City subway. As a jaded journalist, I’d seen it all but Joshua really captured my attention. I’ve been working hard to move his family from homeless shelter to a home where Joshua can come home to. If you’d like to follow him or help him, please visit http://www.TapDanceExpress.com

    You can hear the interviews with Joshua I did on this site as well. He’s a remarkable American and an inspiration to us all.

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