Already faced with numerous challenges, the coronavirus pandemic has inflicted a staggering toll on these communities in lives lost, rates of infection and joblessness, exposing deep-rooted health and economic disparities. It has also increased challenges for students of colour seeking higher education – a key pathway to better pay, greater job opportunities and long-term economic security.
4,000 students in 20 US cities
Launching in Dallas, Westchester, Houston, and Chicago, PepsiCo plans to expand the scholarship programme to 16 additional cities in the fall, putting up $40m to support 4,000 students over five years.
The initiative is based on a successful three-year pilot between the company and City Colleges of Chicago and will provide students with funding for tuition and living expenses, as well as mentoring and leadership training. Scholarship winners will also have the opportunity to apply for internships and jobs at PepsiCo.
“Education is a great equaliser that enables economic growth, upward mobility and helps build generational wealth that lifts up communities over the long-term,” said Ramon Laguarta, PepsiCo’s chairman and CEO.
“With this programme, we are creating a differentiated experience for students that goes beyond scholarships by providing critical training, support and other services that will put them on the path to success. Last year, PepsiCo committed to using our resources to combat deep-rooted economic disparities that have long impacted Black and Hispanic communities. We’re proud to announce this community college program today as a key part of that effort.”
The programme offers two types of scholarships. Uplift Scholarships is designed for students seeking two-year associate degrees or trade certificates, while S.M.I.L.E (Success Matters in Life & Education) scholarships are targeted towards community college graduates transitioning to four-year colleges.
Because students typically face challenges like access to affordable housing, childcare support, transportation and food, recipients will receive funding for education expenses like tuition and books as well as financial support for eligible living expenses.
PepsiCo is currently working with Dallas College, Houston Community College, Westchester Community College and City Colleges of Chicago and obviously will add additional community college partners as the programme expands to more cities.
“We are honoured to be a part of The PepsiCo Foundation scholarship initiative,” said Juan Salgado, chancellor of City Colleges of Chicago.
“These transformative resources will help our talented students enrol, persist and complete. I have no doubt that this programme will reshape lives. I applaud PepsiCo’s efforts in removing barriers to higher education, and to helping end racial inequity in education and beyond.”
PepsiCo’s philanthropic arm – The PepsiCo Foundation – has pledged to invest more than $570m over the next five years to lift up Black and Hispanic businesses and communities in the US.
As part of this effort, the Frito-Lay maker is increasing its spending with Hispanic- and Black-owned suppliers, increasing diverse leadership within the company and funding community engagement initiatives, such as the Black Restaurant Accelerator, Pepsi Dig In and the Black Restaurants Deliver programmes; LIFEWTR’s Black Art Rising Series and Doritos #AmplifyBlackVoices campaign, which are focused on elevating Black artists and voices.