If you’ve been within a ten-mile radius of the college admissions process, chances are you know a thing or two about scholarships. Like, that they’re awarded to students who stand out from the crowd in some way—whether through leadership, community service, or academic ability—as a means to help them meet the financial demands of their undergraduate degrees. Another biggie? Unlike college loans, they don’t require repayment.
So, who’s doling them out? Colleges and universities make up some of the front-runners, granting need and merit-based financial support to students who apply. State scholarships follow, in some cases, paying attention to students pursuing studies in specific high-need fields, like teaching and nursing. Students of faith can get in on the action, too, with religious organizations sponsoring a variety of national, regional, and local scholarships. Then, of course, there’s Taco Bell. Sí, Taco Bell!
What’s officially known as the Live Más Scholarship was launched by the Taco Bell Foundation in 2015 and aims $1 million annually at empowering post-secondary students across the U.S. The program isn’t based on students’ grades, athletic abilities, or even how many packets of Fire Sauce they can squeeze onto a chalupa. Instead, the foundation rewards funds to hardworking innovators and creators whose passions aren’t so typical. You can call them folks who think outside the bun.
The 2019 scholarship recipients hail from almost every state and have plans for undergraduate education at schools like Cornell University, the University of Pennsylvania, New York Film Academy, and the University of Southern California.
They make up a group of performers, artists, volunteers, educators, and entrepreneurs. And in each of their ways, they want to change the world. Take Miles, for example, a trumpet player who’s headed to the University of Cincinnati for to double major in Biomedical Engineering and Music.
In 2016, the foundation launched the Live Más Scholarship for Restaurant Employees which currently reports nearly $900,000 in awards to the good people serving up FourthMeal. Hannah, for instance, started as a Taco Bell employee to save up money for a high school cultural immersion trip to Japan. In 2018, she was awarded $25,000 to pursue a degree in Japanese Linguistics at Sacramento City College.
The brand’s plans to give más continued in 2018 with the Live Más Scholarship Renewal Program, which supports previous recipients in their ongoing educational journeys. With first-time scholarships, restaurant employee scholarships, and recipient scholarships combined, 2019 market the foundation’s record for the highest monetary amount awarded in a single year. At $10.7 million in total scholarships, the foundation is halfway to its commitment of granting $21 million in scholarships by 2021. Take that, McDonald’s.
Instead, applicants must submit a video that in two minutes or less, tells the story of what drives their passion. Students can describe how their educational goals, talk about what makes them unique, share plans for their dream career, or even cover an experience that shaped their worldview. The foundation created this process out of the belief that it would better suit their target base. Approaches of all types are welcome, whether you opt for a short film, animation, or simple testimonial.
To apply, students must be a resident of the U.S., between 16 and 24-years old, and on track to apply for or currently enrolled in an accredited post-secondary educational program. Students should also be sure to include their specific secondary education program, or the college or certificate option they’re pursuing. Students can use their Live Más Scholarship winnings at U.S. two-and four-year colleges, universities, vocational-technical, and trade schools. As for clown college, the jury is still out.
Through the foundation’s Round Up program, customers can donate to the Live Más Scholarship by “rounding up” their order total to the nearest dollar. The program is available at all U.S. Taco Bell restaurants, whether you’re stopping by their flagship’s VIP lounge or ordering your Quesarito at the Twinsburg, Ohio franchise that everyone says is haunted.
Panera Bread has scholarships for student-athletes. Denny’s helps students who are hungry for education. Scholarships backed by fast-food monoliths aren’t all geared for the public, either. Like the Taco Bell Foundation, most chains offer hourly employees some form of financial support for college, like Burger King’s Whopper Scholarship or the REACH Educational Grant Program from KFC.
Other fast-food companies even offer tuition assistance programs, as Starbucks employees find at Arizona State University. So, next time you think working the drive-thru won’t pay for college, think again. It just might be cover a heaping portion of it.
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