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STLCC and PepsiCo Foundation Uplift Scholarship Program Success Story

Robert Cavazos

When you hit rock bottom, the only way out is up.

When Robert Cavazos found himself in that situation, he sought counsel from the one person he knew could help him find his way.

“My aunt (Christina Bennett) is a first-generation college graduate who did so when I was 3 months old,” Cavazos said. “My siblings and I could not see the wisdom in her words, but when my life hit rock bottom, I called her with my last lifeline.”

Bennett encouraged Cavazos to move from Fresno, Calif., to live with her in St. Louis. She required three things of him. 

"First, I was to be honest and change my way of life,” he said. “Second, I was to get a job and help support my children back home. Third, I was to go to vocational school or community college and focus on my dream at all costs. I was provided room and board, she assisted me with job applications, and she and my uncle encouraged me to get my first apartment in the Central West End.”

Cavazos had dreamed of working in cybersecurity and enrolled at St. Louis Community College-Forest Park to start on that pathway. While at a STLCC resource fair, he met with Vanyah Moore, the PepsiCo Uplift Scholarship Program Coordinator, who gave him information about the scholarship and its benefits.   

“My family has encouraged me to apply for financial aid and any scholarships to assist me in my journey,” he said. “I was shocked to receive the scholarship as I had never applied for one and I didn’t expect to be selected.”

The initiative provides $2,000 per academic year to underrepresented students studying business administration, accounting, transportation, advanced manufacturing or informational technology. In addition to financial assistance, students at STLCC have access to dedicated success coaches, emergency grants and financial literacy courses.

The program is designed with a comprehensive approach to promote access to education advancement by addressing the obstacles – retention, completion, and workforce readiness – that impact students’ educational and professional journeys. 

Later in the semester, Cavazos attended the first annual PepsiCo Foundation Scholars Celebration where he met Nate Baker, PepsiCo general manager. As a result of that meeting and subsequent interview, Cavazos was offered a job at PepsiCo. He left his minimum wage job as a parking enforcement officer for the City of St. Louis to become a PepsiCo merchandiser. His supervisor also adjusted Cavazos’ work schedule to accommodate his class schedule at Forest Park. Cavazos is on track to graduate in December 2024 with a degree in cybersecurity.

“My family has been overjoyed with the Pepsi Scholarship and job opportunity,” he said. “The scholarship has given me a boost in confidence.”

To be considered for the scholarship, students must be currently enrolled either full or part time at STLCC. Also, they must:

  • have a 2.50 GPA and be in good standing. 
  • have demonstrated unmet financial need under the standard federal needs analysis formula.
  • preference will be given to incoming trade students and rising academic freshmen and sophomores who come from disadvantaged backgrounds.
  • be currently pursuing a two-year associate/certificate.

Students can apply for the PepsiCo Foundation scholarships throughout the school year. 

To date, 168 STLCC students have received the scholarship. 

For more information, contact Vanyah Moore, STLCC’s PepsiCo Uplift Scholarship coordinator, or call her at 314-644-9016. 

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