The Zumba Community Is Helping a Boston Conservatory Student Crowdfund His Tuition

Bransen Gates has already raised more than $7,000 via GoFundMe.

Bransen Gates

Gates, far right, performing. Photos provided to

Stories of college students turning to crowdfunding sites to finance astronomical tuition costs have (sadly) become increasingly common in recent years. Now, the trend had extended into performing arts schools.

Bransen Gates, a rising junior at the Boston Conservatory majoring in musical theater, is hoping to raise $20,000 through a GoFundMe page, money that would allow him to continue his studies and pursue his dreams of becoming an actor.

“My parents came to me at the beginning of the summer and said, ‘We don’t really know how we’re going to get you through this year of school,'” he says. “The next logical thing, I thought, was to start up a GoFundMe, even though I didn’t know how successful it would be.”

In only 15 days, however, Gates has raised more than $7,000 toward his goal, thanks in large part to an unlikely community: Zumba lovers.

That’s because Gates is dating beloved Zumba instructor Adam Bokunewicz, a fellow Boston Conservatory student who teaches the pulse-pounding cardio classes at Boston Sports Clubs and Healthworks. “With my Zumba students, I have such an extensive network of people in the city,” Bokunewicz says, adding that many of his students also know Gates from class. “I’m trying to reach a bigger audience, some more people who probably would be interested in helping. Zumba’s a great way to do that.”

Zumba is also personal for Gates, who says he turned to the fitness program as a way to escape his financial stress. “First and foremost, theater is my escape, which is why I’m itching to go back to school,” he says. “But I think Zumba really helped me stay strong during such a stressful time in my life, and provided me with an escape that I never knew was possible.”

Gates only has one week left to hit his $20,000 goal by Aug. 31—when tuition payments are due—but the rising third-year student says he’s already been blown away by the amount of support he’s gotten from friends, family, fellow Zumba students, and strangers alike.

“This whole thing has kind of given me a new perspective on things, to not take everything for granted and to appreciate everything more than I have,” Gates says. “I think that’s the one thing that people forget sometimes, is how fortunate they are to be able to attend school.”

Bransen Gates

Gates, far right, in the practice room.