Marine & College Student Charts his Own Path to Success through Community Builder Scholarship


Posted: May 16, 2024 | Word Count: 772

Students with the drive, enthusiasm and commitment to improve their communities can take those qualities even further, with some support. That's the main idea behind the Frito-Lay Community Builder Scholarship, which awarded $25,000 each to students who demonstrate a passion for leading and uplifting their local communities, contributing to a brighter future.

"As a first-generation college student myself, I received a life-changing scholarship while pursuing my degree," said Jesus Gutierrez, Frito-Lay North America DEI HR manager. "I know the impact this scholarship will make on these students, who are pioneering change through their passions — and I expect their commitment to their community to continue beyond school."

As one of a diverse group of employees on the scholarship judging committee, Gutierrez also had the opportunity to help surprise one of this year's recipients, college student and U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant Ramon Perez.

While attending college and fulfilling demanding duties in the Marine Corps, Ramon Perez of Rochelle, New York, also volunteers with his local Boys & Girls Club and Big Brothers, Big Sisters. He began volunteering in high school, discovering he could make an impact on his community through mentorship.

"It's cool to have somewhere to feel safe," said Perez. "I felt like I had that safe place at the Boys and Girls Club. I want to continue to impact my community as a volunteer and make it a better place for everyone."

He learned about giving back as young as 10 years old, when he joined his father on annual road trips from New York to Mexico with a truckload of donations for his extended family's community. His father instilled in Perez his dedicated work ethic and commitment to family.

To chart your unique path to success, while balancing, work, school, service and positively impacting your community, Perez offers this advice:

Be transparent about your schedule. When juggling commitments, communication is key in meeting your goals and showing everyone your dedication. For example, when he had a weeklong training for the Marines, he worked with his college professor to share a recording of his presentation ahead of time.

Find advocates and allow them to champion you. Working together with instructors and mentors has been crucial for Perez being able to succeed in several arenas.

Maximize your time. "Ask yourself when you can multitask," Perez said. "For example, is your commute a chance to catch up on reading?"

Optimize opportunities. A Veterans Affairs representative helped Perez find available scholarships, which he now pays forward by helping Marines in his platoon apply for scholarships.

Be confident: When applying for scholarships Perez says, "It's really about selling yourself. This is a skill I learned in the Marine Corps. Once I was plugged into the process, Scholarship America makes finding scholarships easy."

Perez will be a senior at Baruch College this fall, studying accounting and finance. He wants to get into the financial sector and become a CPA, with the ultimate goal of helping his parents retire.

2024 Community Builder Scholarship Recipients

Mehar Bhasin from Lakeville, Connecticut. Bhasin is passionate about STEM and co-founded the non-profit organization STEAM BLOOM, which has provided over 2,000 students free access to computer science resources. Bhasin will be a sophomore at Dartmouth College this fall.

Jaelyn Hardaway from San Antonio, Texas. Hardaway served on the San Antonio mayor's Youth Climate Council and was co-founder of the first Antonian branch of Cancer Kids First. She recently organized and led an initiative to deliver personalized care packages to pediatric patients locally and internationally. Graduating high school this year, Hardaway is currently deciding where she will attend college.

Caleb Oh from Gambrills, Maryland. Oh co-founded the non-profit Kid Changemakers when he was just in elementary school. He's raised thousands of dollars to help support food insecurity initiatives and to help at-risk populations such as foster children and the homeless. He also successfully lobbied state senators to remove the tax on diapers, saving families millions of dollars. Oh will be a sophomore at Harvard University this fall.

"Each student has had their own unique path to finding their purpose through community, education and their personal backgrounds. Based on my experience, I've seen the value that diverse thinking and backgrounds can bring to leadership," said Gutierrez. "What all of these students have accomplished is impressive and inspiring."

Frito-Lay established the Community Builder Scholarship as part of its commitment to education and the goals of PepsiCo Positive (Pep+). Pep+ is a strategic transformation initiative focused on giving back to the communities Pepsi brands serve. Since 2022, Frito-Lay has provided $600,000 in scholarship funds to students across the country. Learn more at Pepsico.com/our-stories.

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