Taco Bell scholarship applicants triple this year
After announcing in January that it would double its Live Más Scholarships to $3 million, the Taco Bell Foundation said its number of applications this year nearly tripled over last year. The awards this year include $500,000 to 50 employees, each ranging from $5,000-$25,000. The foundation said in a news release that the average request this year hovered around $17,000 — one reason the brand said it has a goal of awarding $10 million through the program by 2022.
That huge cost is also why the chain's foundation thought it was critical to double this year's fund pool for the scholarships, which are based on passion, innovation and creativity demonstrated in each applicant's video, rather than academic merit. The Foundation said it is also now piloting a partnership with Mentor to connect recipients with support outside the classroom.
"We recognize that college affordability is a major issue facing our nation, so we're excited to increase the number and size of scholarships this year, but also recognize that the Live Más Scholarship program needs to be more than just a check for our students to be successful," Taco Bell Foundation Executive Director Tina Nguyen said in the release. "That's why we've been providing students with real-world opportunities to put their passions into action since day one, and why we're so excited to work with Mentor to offer our Live Más scholars important support and experiences outside the classroom."
Mentor, a database that pairs mentors with youth, will be piloted in three workshops for Live Más Scholarship students in Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Minneapolis this summer. As part of the workshops, which help the scholarship recipients develop personal and professional skills, Mentor will facilitate interactive trainings to strengthen the scholars' confidence and ability to identify and secure mentors.
The Live Más scholarship program is for 16- to 24-year-old innovators and creators who may not necessarily fit into the traditional "academic" or "athletic" scholarship categories. The application only requires submission of a 2-minute video where applicants share what they love to do.
This year's scholarship program, which drew nearly 8,000 submissions, awarded $1 million to 100 new applicants, $1.5 million through its new renewal program for 150 previous recipients and $500,000 to 50 Taco Bell restaurant employees. The wide range of student passions include medicine, film, engineering, music and community service.
This year's Live Más Scholarship winners join 440 past winners, who have received a total of $2.8 million since the scholarship first opened in 2015. To raise money for the scholarship fund, Taco Bell Foundation partners with Taco Bell for a twice-yearly national fundraiser, including the one that started May 10 at the chain.
Now through May 24, the chain locations are asking customers to get involved in the program by donating a dollar to the foundation and program. The scholarships are part of the chain's "Start with Us, Stay with Us" program, which encourages employees to leverage the company's leadership development and education programs no matter how long they've been with, or plan to stay with, the company.
As part of its ongoing commitment to support varied pathways to education, Taco Bell recently announced a national partnership with Guild Education, which offers the company's 210,000 U.S. team members access to personalized education coaches and tuition discounts for thousands of programs. Collectively, these employee benefits and the Live Más Scholarship have unlocked opportunities for thousands of employees to have their education paid for and access to support from day one of their careers at Taco Bell, according to the release.