Media Contact: Cherie Yurco;
For immediate release — Oct. 2, 2023
(DALLAS) — These Dallas College graduates know how it feels to complete their college education with limited resources and challenges that threaten to undermine their goals. This year, 10 students have successfully transferred from Dallas College to four-year colleges with the peace of mind of having their tuition and expenses supported by a $25,000-a-year scholarship from PepsiCo Foundation.
PepsiCo Foundation S.M.I.L.E. (Success Matters in Life and Education) scholarships are designed to help students from historically underserved communities and attending partner colleges
transfer to four-year colleges and universities. Applicants must have completed 45 credit hours at a partner institution like Dallas College and have a minimum grade point average of 2.75.
“Driving lasting change is our focus at the PepsiCo Foundation, and what better way to do that than to invest in the education and future of the next generation,” said C.D. Glin, president of the PepsiCo Foundation and global head of social impact at PepsiCo. “A single scholarship can be the catalyst for these ambitious students to complete their education, build generational wealth within their families and contribute to a stronger community for all.”
“Dallas College and the Dallas College Foundation are deeply committed to promoting educational equity and addressing economic disparities for minority students. Our continued partnership with the PepsiCo Foundation underscores our dedication to eliminating these inequities, empowering underserved communities and forging transformative pathways for student success,” said Lori Jaide Watson, deputy director Dallas College Foundation. “Together, we aim to leave a lasting imprint on the landscape of education.”
Among the 2023 PepsiCo Foundation S.M.I.L.E awardees from Dallas College were Valeria Bello De Armas, Christina Castillo, Immanol Hernandez, David Iglesias, Gisselle Lopez, Justus Woods and Annie Zelaya. Four of this year’s winners are highlighted here.
Christina Castillo earned an Associate of Applied Science in May and has transferred to the University of Texas at Arlington to study communication technology. Her goal is to become a user experience (UX) designer, creating meaningful and impactful experiences. “I have always been fascinated by how design and technology shape our daily experiences. As a perpetually curious person and natural problem-solver, I found myself drawn to UX design because of its ability to improve people’s lives,” she said.
“My upbringing gave me a strong sense of resilience, resourcefulness and empathy. I was exposed to many perspectives from an early age. This nurtured my curiosity and appreciation for inclusivity. Growing up in the border town of Laredo taught me the importance of bridging gaps and connecting people, fueling my passion for creating online experiences that bring people together,” said Castillo.
Castillo was overwhelmed upon learning she had won a S.M.I.L.E. scholarship. “I was so thrilled and excited by having my hard work recognized,” she said. “At the same time, I was filled with so much gratitude. I am thankful to the scholarship committee for selecting me and appreciative of PepsiCo Foundation for making this achievement possible and supporting underrepresented students.”
She credits Dallas College and its professors for the support and resources they provided to ensure her success, especially during the pandemic. “I am forever grateful to Dallas College and my professors for guiding me through my educational journey,” she said.
David Iglesias transferred to Texas A&M University this fall, where he is majoring in multidisciplinary engineering technology, which focuses on mechatronics and robotics. “My ultimate career goal is to become a robotics/automation engineer,” he said. “I wish to develop robots that can aid people and help achieve humanity’s goals, ushering in a reality where humans and automation coexist.”
Growing up in Grand Prairie, Iglesias always enjoyed mathematics. His passion for discovering the science behind how things work began in middle school, when he compulsively watched science videos to soothe his thirst for knowledge.
Iglesias is excited to enter an evolving field, where he can be a pioneer. “This degree will allow me to specialize in a field of engineering that is still in its infancy. There are many problems to be worked out if robots are expected to work with humans. By obtaining this degree, I’ll gain skills and make helpful connections to allow me to aid the field,” he said.
Iglesias was stunned to learn he had won the PepsiCo Foundation S.M.I.L.E. scholarship. “Becoming a finalist felt like a dream come true, but actually winning was such an impactful moment,” he said.
While studying science at Dallas College, his understanding of the world grew, and he evolved socially and emotionally. “I met many great people who allowed me to grow out of my shell to befriend and work with them. It was an eye-opening experience I truly appreciate,” he said. “My classmates and teacher assistants gave me support and troves of information, hospitality and genuine fun, allowing me to move forward in my academics and helping me to obtain this scholarship.”
Justus Woods transferred to Southern Methodist University (SMU) to study marketing after earning an associate degree in Business Administration from Dallas College. Woods credits his work ethic and drive to his mom, who has worked two full-time jobs for most of his life.
While in high school, Woods also worked two jobs, and shortly after graduating, launched the candle business LaMuseScents. He sold his products at farmers markets, online and even door to door. “My passion for marketing truly bloomed through creating my candle business. I had to stand out in a very saturated market, while also authentically representing myself.”
Upon finding out he was a finalist for the scholarship, Woods was elated at the idea that all the years of tireless effort were paying off. “The PepsiCo S.M.I.L.E. scholarship is allowing me to attend SMU without the stress of working full time to cover tuition but also with the freedom to pursue extracurricular activities. Along with the privilege to live on campus, it will provide me the opportunity to take full advantage of the inspiring SMU community.”
Wood attributes his desire to understand customers to his experiences as a member and president of the Philosophy Club at Dallas College. “It was an extremely diverse community of people, all on different paths but sharing the same drive,” he observed. As treasurer of the Student Government Association at the Richland Campus, Woods led multiple fundraising events and participated in Community College Day in Austin, where he advocated for student rights.
At Dallas College, Annie Zelaya learned to analyze code and develop new codes. She also found out what it takes to be a professional developer. She earned an Associate of Applied Science in Development Technology as well as a certificate in Web Application Development. This fall, she continues her education at UT Arlington, pursuing a Bachelor of Science in information systems.
Raised in the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas, family difficulties and abuse left Zelaya homeless and couch surfing at age 18. Her life took a dramatic turn when she endured a one-hour seizure and was diagnosed with psychogenic seizures, which left her $20,000 in debt and struggling to afford neurology appointments and anti-convulsant medications.
“Personally experiencing the need for accessible health care makes me scream for change,” said Zelaya, who hopes to one day help with a solution from the IT side by providing doctors and hospitals with the tools and data they need. “I can develop a comprehensive technology roadmap to share information in ways that enhance care and create new technical standards.”
“When I received the news that I was a recipient of the scholarship, I cried and felt a large weight lifted off my shoulders,” she said. “The scholarship will cover the costs of my first year at the university, allowing me to allocate finances to my medical needs. I will have no worries of affording tuition, supplies and housing.”
# # #
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 annually. 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 Dallas College Foundation
Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2023, Dallas College Foundation is an independent 501(c)3 whose mission is to advance students’ economic mobility and strengthen our community by partnering with donors and philanthropies to help Dallas College rise to new heights of equity, innovation and excellence. Since its creation in 1973, the foundation has raised more than $83 million in private donations and distributed more than $42 million in scholarships and grants to support thousands of students at Dallas College.
About the PepsiCo Foundation
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 at