Fans of the hit podcast "Serial" have created a scholarship fund to honor the Woodlawn High School student whose 1999 murder is at the center of the story.
Members of a "Serial" discussion group on Reddit launched a drive Monday to raise $25,000 to create a scholarship for Woodlawn students named after Hae Min Lee.
Jacob White, one of the group's moderators, said many Redditors were seeking a way to "give back to the community from which the Serial story rises."
"We know that all the media attention focusing on their small part of Baltimore isn't always positive or constructive, so we wanted to do something clearly positive," White wrote in an email.
Lee, a star student and athlete, was found strangled in the winter of her senior year at Woodlawn. Her former boyfriend and classmate, Adnan Syed, was found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to life plus 30 years.
"This American Life" producer Sarah Koenig, a former Baltimore Sun reporter, has spent the past year delving into Lee's killing, the investigation and Syed's legal case. The 12th and final installment of the podcast is set to be released Thursday.
"Serial" has become the most popular podcast of all time, with more than 5 million downloads. More than 25,000 people have subscribed to the Reddit discussion forum, in which people debate the facts of the case.
Organizers of the scholarship fund hope to raise $25,000 over the next month -- or a dollar for each subscriber. More than $900 had been raised by Tuesday morning.
The Redditors say they will leave it up to school officials to decide how to award the money. The only stipulation is that it will go to a graduating senior who plans to attend college.
Ashley Gallant, chair of the counseling at Woodlawn, said the school welcomed the scholarship drive.
"We look forward to raising some money and awarding it to a deserving student," she said.
However, the plan has sparked some debate on the forum. Some Redditors questioned whether a scholarship should be set up in Lee's name without the express permission of her family.
"I'd like to donate but I feel really uncomfortable donating to a memorial fund that is not endorsed by the family of the person being memorialized," wrote user monster_mouse, who suggested changing the name to the "Woodlawn High scholarship fund."
Neither Koenig nor Baltimore Sun reporter Justin George, who has written extensively about the case, have been able to contact Lee's family.
A person who said he was Lee's brother had previously posted on Reddit that he was troubled by the media attention surrounding the story.
"To you listeners, its another murder mystery, crime drama, another episode of CSI," he wrote. "You weren’t there to see your mom crying every night, having a heart attack when she got the news that the body was found, and going to court almost everyday for a year seeing your mom weeping,crying and fainting."
White said that he had reached out to the Reddit user who says he is Lee's brother, but had not heard back. He said organizers would not consider changing the name of the fund unless Lee's family requested it.