Recognizing the need for systemic change to address barriers that make it difficult for low-income students of color to pursue higher education, PepsiCo and its philanthropic arm, The PepsiCo Foundation, has announced a new $40 million scholarship and professional mentoring program to support Black and Hispanic aspiring and graduating community college students. Launching in Dallas, Westchester, Houston, and Chicago, PepsiCo plans to expand the program to 16 additional cities in the fall and aims to support 4,000 students over five years.
Higher education is a key pathway to better pay, greater job opportunities and long-term economic security. This $40 million initiative is designed to help Black and Hispanic students pursue and succeed in higher education and gain the training and skills they need for current and future job markets. The comprehensive program provides students with financial support as well as mentoring and leadership training from PepsiCo employees. Students will also have the opportunity to apply for internships and jobs at PepsiCo.
“Education is a great equalizer that enables economic growth, upward mobility and helps build generational wealth that lifts up communities over the long-term,” said PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Ramon Laguarta. “With this program, 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 program is comprised of two types of scholarships – Uplift Scholarships for students seeking two-year associate degrees or trade certificates and S.M.I.L.E (Success Matters in Life & Education) scholarships for community college graduates transitioning to four-year colleges. Because students of color are more likely than white students to face challenges like access to affordable housing, childcare support, transportation and food, scholarship recipients will receive funding for education expenses like tuition and books as well as financial support for eligible living expenses.
In lives lost, rates of infection and joblessness, COVID-19 has inflicted a staggering toll on Black and Hispanic communities, exposing deep-rooted health and economic disparities. It has also increased challenges for students of color seeking higher education, threatening their access to jobs for years to come.
PepsiCo is currently working with Dallas College, Houston Community College, Westchester Community College and City Colleges of Chicago in this program and will add additional community college partners as the program expands to more cities. This initiative is based on a successful three-year pilot between PepsiCo and City Colleges of Chicago.
“City Colleges of Chicago is honored to be a part of The PepsiCo Foundation scholarship initiative. These transformative resources will help our talented students enroll, persist and complete. I have no doubt that this program will reshape lives,” said Juan Salgado, Chancellor of City Colleges of Chicago. “We are thankful that PepsiCo put words into action by supporting the academic excellence of community colleges. I applaud their efforts in removing barriers to higher education, and to helping end racial inequity in education and beyond.”
This program is a cornerstone initiative of PepsiCo’s more than $570 million commitment over the next five years to lift up Black and Hispanic businesses and communities in the U.S. to address issues of inequality and create opportunity. As part of this effort, PepsiCo is increasing its spending with Hispanic- and Black-owned suppliers, increasing diverse leadership within the company and funding community engagement initiatives. These initiatives so far include the Black Restaurant Accelerator program, a partnership between The PepsiCo Foundation and the National Urban League to support 500 Black-owned restaurants; Pepsi Dig In, a digital platform that encourages consumers to support Black-owned restaurants; the Black Restaurants Deliver program, a no-cost service that helps Black-owned restaurants boost online ordering and delivering capabilities; LIFEWTR’s Black Art Rising Series and Doritos #AmplifyBlackVoices campaign, which are focused on elevating Black artists and voices; and a program to support Hispanic-owned small food and beverage businesses that will be announced soon.