The University Network

Taco Bell Is Giving Out $6 Million In Scholarships To Passionate Students

Applications are now open for the Taco Bell Foundation’s fifth annual series of Live Más Scholarships. This year, the foundation is giving away more than $6 million to passionate young students across the United States.

Each applicant will have a chance to win between $5,000 and $25,000 in scholarship money. All they have to do is create a two-minute-long video describing their passion and how they will use it to make a difference. Grades, essays and test scores do not matter. 

“We want to support talented and passionate students who have the drive to make a difference,” said Lacey Gaitan, associate manager of the Taco Bell Foundation. 

Because the Live Más Scholarship is passion-based, those who apply for it aren’t measured on what they’ve accomplished in the classroom, on the court or on the field. Instead, they’re awarded for their unique skills, talents and desires to pursue them. 

Take Megan Humphreys-Savell, an aspiring art teacher, for example. She received a $25,000 Live Más scholarship in 2019. 

Growing up in the foster-care system, Humphreys-Savell found art to be her best outlet. She spent time in some really rough households and always found an escape through drawing. It was her dream to teach art, but she never had enough money to fund her education until she received a Live Más Scholarship this year.

“My passion is really to teach art. I want to teach students about how they can use it as an outlet like I did,” Humphreys-Savell explained in a video. “I was putting off attending classes at Indiana University because I couldn’t afford it on my own. But with this scholarship, I’ll be able to go in the fall.”

Humphreys-Savell first learned about the Live Más Scholarships while working at Taco Bell, but the scholarships aren’t limited to Taco Bell employees. Anyone between the ages of 16 and 24 is eligible to apply. 

Another 2019 Live Más Scholarship winner was Miles Spearman, a young trumpet player from a suburb of Youngstown, Ohio. He was presented his $25,000 scholarship during the last music recital of his senior year of high school. 

“Someone actually believes in me,” Spearman said in a video. “Not just my parents, not just people that have been with me for six years, but someone who looked at a two-minute video believed that I could really make a difference with music. That really changed my perspective … I can actually do this.”

Now, Spearman is at the University of Cincinnati double-majoring in music and biomedical engineering. He hopes to combine his knowledge of both fields to come up with a cure for Alzheimer’s. 

After this year, the Taco Bell Foundation will have awarded $17 million in total scholarships, putting the foundation well on track to achieve its goal of awarding $21 million in scholarships by 2021. 

Clearly, that’s a significant amount of money. But what’s most impressive is that by offering these passion-based scholarships, the Taco Bell Foundation is showing it’s in touch with who today’s college students truly are. 

Taco Bell understands today’s college students

Today’s college students don’t fit the common stereotypes of the past. They come from all walks of life and face their own unique barriers to higher education. A majority of them are already financially independent. And to pay for living costs and tuition while working towards their degree, nearly 60 percent of them have to sacrifice study time to work jobs. So, basing scholarships strictly on GPA — as many companies and institutions do — is far from equitable.

“Students are changing and we wanted to be able to evolve and meet those needs,” Gaitan said. “We feel that providing the opportunity to support a student’s passion — not what their performance was in school — opens up the field for students of all backgrounds to pursue education beyond high school that we feel is important for them to launch into their career. And we want to be a part of providing that support.” 

Thankfully, the Taco Bell Foundation isn’t a “one-off check writer.” Those who win a Live Más Scholarship are given access to a network of peers and mentors so they can continue to build connections and improve their professional skills. Just this past summer, 200 scholarship winners gathered at Live Más Scholarship Workshops in San Francisco, Irvine, Atlanta, Minneapolis and Philadelphia to meet with mentors and peers and further explore how they can use their passion in the professional world and to serve others. 

“We have students who are pursuing engineering, students who are pursuing cosmetology, graphic design or app development,” said Gaitan. “We have students starting nonprofits, creating their own businesses, and it’s really amazing for us to see the difference they are able to make in their communities by having someone behind them who is really supporting their passion.” 

To help raise money for its Live Más Scholarship, the Taco Bell Foundation has implemented a program called Round Up. All year-round, at Taco Bell counters around the United States, customers are asked if they would like to donate to the scholarship fund by rounding up to the nearest dollar. 

And twice a year, the Taco Bell Foundation hosts a fundraiser, which also includes Round Up at drive-through windows. The most recent fundraiser took place October 17-31, and those who rounded up were rewarded with a free taco and drink. 

Those interested in the scholarship have until January 23, 2020 to apply.