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Darden Restaurant Group, HSF Grant $150,000 to Low-Income College Students

Darden Restaurant Group, HSF Grant $150,000 to Low-Income College Students

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The Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF), the leading provider of college scholarships to Hispanics across the country, and the Darden Restaurants, Inc. Foundation (Darden Foundation) have launched a new program to expand scholarship opportunities and academic support for low-income college students. Through a $150,000 grant from the Darden Foundation, 40 students from Dallas, Los Angeles and Miami were named recipients of the HSF/Darden Restaurants, Inc. Foundation Scholarship and Academic Support Program (HSF/Darden scholarship).

The $150,000 grant is the first partnership between HSF and the Darden Foundation. It builds on the Darden Foundation’s Recipe for Success™ initiative, which aims to enable and empower youth to pave their own path to success by providing them with the information and tools necessary to pursue their dreams of higher education. The Darden Foundation is the charitable arm of Darden Restaurants, Inc., which is the world’s largest full-service restaurant company. Darden operates more than 2,000 Red Lobster, Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Bahama Breeze, Seasons 52, The Capital Grille, Eddie V’s and Yard House restaurant locations across North America.

The forty students were selected from HSF’s qualified pool of applicants. Each student will receive a $2,500 scholarship plus academic support through the first year of college via self-assessment and academic planning tools, support groups, and student advisors. By addressing the financial and cultural barriers that keep many low-income students from earning a college degree, the new partnership between HSF and the Darden Foundation will provide these students with financial resources and tools to achieve their full potential through education.

One student realizing his potential is Juan Trujillo, an HSF/Darden scholarship recipient and mechanical engineering major at Florida International University. Leaving his family behind in his native Venezuela, Juan came to the U.S. with dreams of becoming an astronaut. He excelled at Coral Reef Senior High School in Miami and now plans a career in aerospace engineering. Since the tenth grade, Juan has been a soccer coach for young kids at Coral Reef Elementary School and has become a role model for others.

Cristina Lopez, another scholarship recipient from Los Angeles, studies at Pomona College. Her story of hardship is common among immigrant Latino families. Cristina used to work with her mother delivering flyers in the streets, but her economic and family hardships never deterred her from taking AP courses in high school and preparing herself for a college education.

In Richardson, Texas, Zoar Guadarrama, yet another scholarship recipient begins her college journey as a freshman at The University of Texas at Dallas. The National Honor Society member was raised by a single mom and comes from a long line of proud Mexican women. She gives of her time by teaching dance at her local church as well as volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club.  Zoar is majoring in biochemistry and plans to become a pediatrician.

As the cost of college increases and other resources diminish, the funding for scholarship programs becomes a critical factor in making college education a reality for promising Latino students. According to an MPR study, students supported by HSF scholarships spent less time at outside jobs than most students, allowing them more time to focus on their academic responsibilities.

A study conducted by The National Center for Education Statistics finds that even after work, parent contributions, and financial aid, low-income students are left with an average gap of $2,200 of unmet financial need. The Darden Foundation scholarship is structured to respond to this need in a direct way, making a crucial difference for low-income students.