Awarding students who are lifting up their communities
Two hundred college students who have made an impact in their communities — and been financially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic — are winners of Wells Fargo’s Student Impact Scholarship.
As people around the world have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, college students have been taking action to uplift and empower their communities by distributing food to those in need, providing virtual professional and personal finance development to their peers, registering adults to vote, and hosting a virtual coding program for local youth, among other efforts.
Now 200 of those students across the U.S. will receive $5,000 for the spring 2021 semester as a part of Wells Fargo’s Student Impact Scholarship, in collaboration with APIA Scholars. In addition to recognizing those who have made an impact in their community, the scholarships aim to help students who unexpectedly need financial assistance because of the pandemic, particularly underrepresented students who have been disproportionately affected. The program also pairs each student with a Wells Fargo mentor to help guide them through their educational journey and beyond, once they leave the classroom.
“Supporting those who uplift and empower their communities is as critical as ever in such a difficult year,” said John Rasmussen, leader of Personal Lending for Wells Fargo. “By making an investment in these students who are already making a difference, we know it will have a ripple effect in their communities.”
‘I really appreciate seeing other people be successful’
The scholarship recipients have made impacts in their communities in a number of areas, including relief and support for those affected by COVID-19, social and racial justice, general community support, civic engagement, environmental justice, and more. They are from 40 states and Washington, D.C., and 58% of them are first-generation college students, like Jonathan Carrera, a senior studying accounting at the University of Southern California.
When the pandemic began, Carrera was also just stepping into his role as vice president of professional development for a leadership society at his college. Wanting to give back to his community, Carrera had to get creative, so he started offering virtual personal finance and professional development workshops, focusing on topics like creating a budget, repaying loans, networking, and acing an interview.
“The biggest hurdle for me coming to college, being a first-generation student, has been navigating the whole professional development space,” Carrera said. “I will be the first working professional in my family, so I didn’t really have a mentor going into that recruiting process. After I was able to leverage all the resources I did to get my first internship, I really wanted to give back to the community because I know how hard it was, especially right now. It looks so different in the virtual environment.”
He has also worked virtually one-on-one with his peers by looking over their resumes and cover letters. “I really appreciate seeing other people be successful,” Carrera said. “Having a mentor is a great thing throughout college, and seeing the satisfaction people get from achieving their goals is motivating for me.”
Carrera said he was proud to receive the scholarship and plans to use it for tuition and living expenses. “It means a lot to me,” Carrera said. “Being a first-generation college student has given me an interesting perspective on higher education. What motivates me is giving back to my family.”
‘I have a strong relationship with my community and wanted to help’
Each scholarship recipient is matched with a mentor to provide them with support and resources, which is something Trinity Harris is looking forward to. “It’s amazing to have a mentor. They can help you with your resume, interview questions, and networking to get your foot in the door. I’m excited to get to know them,” Harris said.
Because of the pandemic, Harris, a senior majoring in psychology at Georgia State University, lost her job that helped her pay for college, and her father was furloughed from his job in information technology in Atlanta for four months. “I’ve seen a lot of family and friends lose their jobs,” Harris said. “We wanted to do something in our community to help the people around us we saw suffering, not just low-income people. Everyone’s been affected. I have a strong relationship with my community and wanted to help.”
She and her father, who also works as a pastor in Charlotte, North Carolina, learned from a family friend that the U.S. Department of Agriculture was giving away boxes of food through its Farmers to Families Food Box Program and needed people to distribute them. So they decided to rent a refrigerated truck and give away fresh food in communities and churches in and around Atlanta; Greenville, South Carolina; and Charlotte. From June to October, Harris and her father distributed more than 6,000 boxes of fruits, vegetables, poultry, and dairy on weekends.
They recently started the effort again and will continue until January. “I felt more grateful and blessed than I ever have,” Harris said. “It has taught me to be grateful for the little things in life and not to take anything for granted. I was able to watch families be completely overwhelmed with what we were doing.”
Harris, who is pursuing a minor in nonprofit leadership, said she hopes to start a nonprofit one day to help developing nations. And receiving the Student Impact Scholarship is helping her to get one step closer to that dream. “When I learned about winning, I was so excited,” Harris said. “I called all of my friends and family. The scholarship will definitely help me with books, tuition, and transportation because I live off campus. It’s going to help me a lot.”