Frito-Lay bestows first-ever Community Builder Scholarships

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Frito-Lay is passionate about breaking systemic barriers and providing equitable opportunities for all, especially those who have gone the extra mile to help their communities. Pic: GettyImages/Tara Moore
Frito-Lay is passionate about breaking systemic barriers and providing equitable opportunities for all, especially those who have gone the extra mile to help their communities. Pic: GettyImages/Tara Moore

Related tags Frito-lay scholarship nonprofits

From providing free access to computer science resources to delivering personalized care packages to pediatric cancer patients, four outstanding students have been recognized and rewarded by the snacking giant for their dedicated efforts.

Frito-Lay has awarded $25,000 to four scholarship recipients to help them with their higher education goals and education-related expenses.

The Plano, Texas-headquartered company devised the Community Builder Scholarship to recognize the commitment to make a difference. Parent company PepsiCo believes education creates multiple pathways to meaningful opportunities and as such, remains key in fueling its long-term growth.

This is aligned with the company’s pep+ (PepsiCo Positive) mission, an end-to-end strategic transformation focused to win with purpose and give back to the communities that Frito-Lay and PepsiCo serve.

“As a first-generation college student, I also received a life-changing scholarship while pursuing my degree. I know the impact this scholarship will make on these students, who are each pioneering change through their own passions,” said Frito-Lay North America DEI HR manager Jesus Gutierrez, who also served on the panel to select the recipients.

“Each winner has had their own unique path to finding their purpose through community, education and their personal backgrounds. Based on my own lived and professional experience, I’ve seen the value diverse thinking and backgrounds can bring to leadership.”

The four were chosen by a diverse panel of Frito-Lay employees – each offering a unique perspective based on their tenure and experience, including frontline workers, DEI leaders and executives – from a pool of over 500 applications, so to be singled out was no mean feat.

The recipients

Frito-Lay scholarships
Left to right: Mehar Bhasin, Jaelyn Hardaway, Caleb Oh and Sgt Ramon Perez

Mehar Bhasin​ from Lakeville, Connecticut, cofounded STEAM Bloom after noticing widespread gender and race disparities in the STEM field. Her nonprofit has already provided over 2,000 students with free access to computer science resources.

STEM is an umbrella term used to group together the distinct but related technical disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The term is typically used in the context of education policy or curriculum choices in schools. STEAM adds art or architecture.

“To me, community conveys a sense of belongingness, togetherness and collective growth,” said Bhasin.

“I truly enjoy contributing to their success, uplifting them, serving them, leading them and trying to make an impact.”

Bhasin will use the scholarship for her studies at Dartmouth College.

Jaelyn Hardaway​ from San Antonio, Texas, is the cofounder of the First Antonian branch of Cancer Kids First. She served on the Mayor of San Antonio's Youth Climate Council and recently organized and led an initiative to deliver personalized care packages to pediatric patients locally and internationally.

“Community signifies a sense of belonging, support and shared identity among individuals who come together around common interests, values, or goals, fostering connection, collaboration and mutual aid,” said Hardaway.

She is graduating from high school in 2024 and still deciding where to attend college.

Caleb Oh​ from Gambrills, Maryland, cofounded Kid Changemakers while in elementary school and to-date has raised thousands of dollars to help support food insecure and at-risk populations, such as foster children and the homeless.

He also successfully lobbied US state senators to remove the tax on baby diapers, collectively saving families millions of dollars.

“Volunteering has affirmed my belief that all kids can make a difference in an adult world, no matter their circumstances,” said Oh.

He will be a sophomore at Harvard University in the fall.

Ramon Perez​ from New Rochelle, New York, is currently a sergeant in the US Marine Corps in addition to attending college and volunteering with the Boys & Girls Club and Big Brothers, Big Sisters.

He enlisted in 2019 and now oversees 120 Marines. He first started volunteering with his local Boys & Girls Club in high school and found he could make a big impact on his community through mentorship.

“I hope to continue to impact my community and make it a better place for everyone; I want New Rochelle to be united,” said Perez.

He will use his scholarship towards his studies at Baruch College.

Pay it forward

Giving back to communities Getty hands
Pic: GettyImages

As an organization with 60,000+ employees, Frito-Lay understands the importance of preparing the next generation​ and is constantly investing to break systemic barriers and provide equitable opportunities for all.​ Since 2022, Frito-Lay has provided $600,000 in scholarship funds to students across the country.

“It was inspiring to learn more about each of these changemakers, plus the challenges they’ve overcome fueled by grit and determination,” said Lay’s global marketing director Tionna Cunningham, who was also on the panel.

“As a student with a tough path to college, this was an opportunity to pay it forward in honor of the people and financial resources that supported me.”

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