Media Contact: Cherie Yurco;
For immediate release — Aug. 5, 2022
(DALLAS) — The PepsiCo Foundation S.M.I.L.E. (Success Matters in Life and Education) Scholarship investment drives awareness and closes the gap on inequality and systemic barriers that have impacted Black and Hispanic students. Ten Dallas College students recently learned they were awarded a $25,000-per-year scholarship.
Winifred Ojo was accepted to the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) last year, but she pushed her admissions from spring to fall because her family could not afford the tuition. “I still didn’t know where I was going to get that kind of money. I was thinking of pushing my admissions again, or just quitting, but I’m glad I didn’t,” she said.
In July, Ojo found out she would be able to start this fall with the support of a
PepsiCo Foundation S.M.I.L.E. scholarship. The scholarships from the PepsiCo Foundation are designed to help students from their partner colleges
transfer to four-year colleges and universities. Among other considerations, applicants must identify as African American, Black, Hispanic or Latino; have completed 45 credit hours at a partner institution like Dallas College; and have a minimum grade point average of 2.75.
“Dallas College and Dallas College Foundation are committed to achieving equity in higher education and reducing economic disparities for minority students. This collaborative partnership is essential for serving underserved communities and creates remarkable transfer pathway opportunities that leave an indelible mark that is vital to the future success of students,” said Lori Jaide Watson, deputy director, Dallas College Foundation.
For Ojo, earning a bachelor’s degree will be one step closer toward achieving a dream she held before immigrating to Dallas from Abuja, Nigeria, as a teen. “I want to become a commercial airline pilot, but to be able to pay for that training, I need to first get my degree and start working,” she explained.
Ojo said she found out about the scholarship in a newsletter and then attended an information session with her mom’s encouragement. After learning she did not need to be a U.S. citizen, she applied. At Dallas College, Ojo
earned her GED diploma and then an Associate of Science. She will study information technology at UTD and hopes to land a job in aviation to support flight school.
“Even though I have great grades, I haven’t qualified for many other scholarships. I’ve met a lot of bright people who can’t go to college because they are DACA students and [think they] can’t get scholarships,” she said. Now, she knows there are
resources. “I would advise everyone from Dallas College to apply.”
“When PepsiCo told me they were awarding me the scholarship, I thought they had made a mistake; I will never forget the smile on my mom’s face when I told her. My family was super grateful,” she said. “I still think it’s not real; $25,000 a year — that’s my whole tuition. If I keep my GPA up, they will renew it, and I won’t have to think about tuition for the next two years.”
“While money for tuition is a barrier for people seeking higher education, it’s only one part of the problem. In a time of economic uncertainty, students are being forced to choose between finishing their degree or surviving in the moment,” said C.D. Glin, global head of philanthropy, PepsiCo, and vice president, The PepsiCo Foundation. “Access to transportation, child care and nutritious food are only some of the additional barriers standing in the way of students achieving a better life for themselves and their families. We applaud Dallas College for their efforts and are grateful for our part to play through the S.M.I.L.E. and Uplift programs. We believe organizations including our own must help to ensure there are support systems in place on the road to completing their education and accessing the job market.”
Scholarships Will Help Students Pursue Their Passions
For Xiomara Rodriguez, single mom of three with one child currently in college, the possibility of attending college full time seemed out of reach. Now, the S.M.I.L.E. scholarship has allowed her to commit to Texas A&M-Commerce to pursue her bachelor’s in social work. “This scholarship is a life changer,” she said.
A frequent volunteer in the Dallas College Mountain View food pantry, Rodriguez has a big heart and wants to help others. She began working toward a career in nursing a couple of years ago. Then, a summer job with a child care provider changed her mind. She saw children being mistreated and made an official report to Child Protective Services.
“That’s when I decided I had a different calling. I changed my field of study in Fall 2019 from the nursing program to social work,” she said. In May this year, she graduated with an Associate of Science
and an Associate of Arts in
Social Work — with a 3.85 GPA.
“There are so many children who don’t have direction and don’t have resources,” she said. “My ultimate goal is to run an organization to help children who can’t be at home. It won’t be a group home, or foster care, but rather a place where they can come and take a shower, have a meal, and get some educational information and a fresh start.”
“There’s more to life than where you grew up,” she said, pointing to difficulties in her own childhood and those who helped her. At Dallas College, her mentor, Cathy Edwards, associate dean of basic needs, helped her push through. “If it wasn’t for her inspiring me, motivating me, I don’t know if I would have gotten through school.” And English professor Darius Frasure, who helped her in the writing lab, encouraged her as well.
With the support of his S.M.I.L.E. scholarship, Jason Contreras will attend University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) this fall to pursue a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering. “I have a passion for technology, especially when it comes to cars,” Contreras said. “I would love to one day design cars or car parts. In high school, I took several STEM classes — calculus, physics — and discovered I had a passion for it.”
Contreras had initially planned to enroll at UTA right out of high school. “I didn’t receive enough scholarships [to make it affordable], and around that time, COVID hit,” he said. The first-generation college student decided to rethink his plans and enrolled in classes at Dallas College, following the
UTA transfer pathway for mechanical engineering.
Today, he is glad he made that decision. “At a community college, everyone works together. You communicate better with peers and professors. I think community college helped me prepare to go on to a university,” he said.
When he graduated Dallas College with an Associate of Science this Spring, Contreras was still unsure how he would fund the next two years. He said that his University Physics II professor, Jeff Peden, was adamant about ensuring his students knew about opportunities. “I wasn’t aware of the scholarship, but thankfully he reached out and encouraged us to apply,” said Contreras.
“When they revealed that I was chosen as one of the recipients, I was speechless; I was shaking,” he said. “This scholarship lifts a huge financial burden that the university posed to me and my family. I will be able to resign from my full-time job and focus on studying.”
Seven additional Dallas College students selected for 2022 PepsiCo S.M.I.L.E. scholarships were: Brendan Uzor (attending UTA to study mechanical engineering), Amilyah Smith (attending LIM College to study business administration in fashion merchandising), Esther Olaitan, Ebube Ezennaya, Jessica Romero Arteaga, Elizabeth Quiroz and Jasmine Rattler.
application for 2023 PepsiCo Foundation S.M.I.L.E. Scholarships will open in early 2023 for Dallas College students who wish to transfer in fall 2023.
In addition to the S.M.I.L.E scholarship, the PepsiCo Foundation also supports students at Dallas College through their Uplift scholarship program. Dallas College students who are pursuing an associate degree or short-term certificates can qualify for scholarships towards tuition and other expenses related to cost of attendance. The scholarship program offers a broad range of training and services to help students complete their education and obtain jobs with livable and sustainable wages in high-growth, high-demand fields.
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About Dallas College
Dallas College, formerly the Dallas County Community College District, was founded in 1965 and consists of seven campuses: Brookhaven, Cedar Valley, Eastfield, El Centro, Mountain View, North Lake and Richland. Dallas College offers online learning and serves more than 125,000 credit and continuing education students during the Fall and Spring semesters. Dallas College also offers dual credit for students in partner high schools and early college high schools throughout Dallas County. Students benefit from partnerships with local business leaders, school districts and four-year universities, and Dallas College offers associate degree and career/technical certificate programs in more than 100 areas of study, as well as a bachelor's degree in education. Based on annual enrollment, it is the largest community college in Texas.
About the PepsiCo Foundation
Established in 1962, the PepsiCo Foundation, the philanthropic arm of PepsiCo, invests in the essential elements of a sustainable food system with a mission to support thriving communities. Working with nonprofits and experts around the globe, we’re focused on helping communities obtain access to food security, safe water and economic opportunity. We strive for tangible impact in the places where we live and work — collaborating with industry peers, local and international organizations, and our employees to affect large-scale change on the issues that matter to us and are of global importance. Learn more by visiting the
PepsiCo Foundation website.