Avery Dennison Corporate / Funding the future by degrees

Funding the future by degrees

The Avery Dennison Scholarship Program helps make college a reality for L.A. public school students committed to being a force for good.

Frances Suavillo, a valedictorian and advocate for educational equity, is attending Stanford. Diego Peña, also first in his class, is studying biology at Claremont McKenna, with the hope of going to medical school. Joy Wyckoff is pursuing two bachelor’s degrees at U.C. Berkeley—one in political science and one in economics, with a minor in computer science for good measure— and plans to pursue a career “reforming systemic inequalities.” And Diana Guardado, who helped pre-register more than 300 voters at her high school, is exploring political science and business management at Menlo College.

What these members of the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Class of 2020 have in common—aside from being extraordinarily bright, passionate, and committed to the common good—is that Avery Dennison is helping to fund their college educations.

Frances Suavillo

Joy Wyckoff

Diego Peña

Diana Guardado

Each year since 2018, the district has awarded Avery Dennison Scholarships to selected seniors, providing one-time assistance to attend the university or trade school of their choice. Twenty-four students have received scholarships to date. All funds are provided by Avery Dennison.

In each of the past two years, ten students received scholarships of $500 each. This year, due to the challenges in reaching students homebound because of COVID-19, the committee awarded four scholarships—two for $1,500, and two for $1,000. As in years past, applicants were evaluated on a number of criteria, including an essay on what it means to be “a force for good.” Although scholarships are not need-based, student need is taken into account. As part of a district comprised primarily of students of color, many scholarship winners come from marginalized communities. 

Wes Hall, a consultant to the district who administers the scholarship program, says the scholarships are about “more than the dollar value. They’re an investment in the future of our young people. Being able to provide scholarships is the fulfillment of an idea we had years ago. Avery Dennison came along and said, ‘We want to walk the talk,’ and we thank them so much.”

An Avery Dennison team member makes the connection

All scholarship applicants are part of the district’s Young Leaders Program, which provides a wide range of leadership training and asks students to lead service projects in their schools and communities. It was through volunteering with that program that Wendell Farrell, Senior Director of Risk Management at Avery Dennison’s corporate headquarters, came up with the idea that  Avery Dennison might be able to help students in the program pay for college. He says his desire to help underserved young people goes back even farther.

“Long before Black Lives Matter became a slogan, I was the father of a Black son and a daughter,” he said. “I understood then and now the importance of showing boys and girls of color how they count in building America.”

Alica Procello, President of the Avery Dennison Foundation & Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility at Avery Dennison, said funding the scholarships reflects the Company’s and Foundation’s focus on education.

“We promote education in a variety of contexts around the world, based on local needs,” she said. “Providing assistance to gifted L.A. Unified students who might otherwise be hard-pressed to pay tuition is one more way we can unlock opportunity. It’s especially meaningful at this moment in American history, when our nation is confronting racial and economic inequities.

“One of the things I appreciate most about the scholarship program is that it grew from an Avery Dennison employee who was volunteering, saw an opportunity for us to help, and worked with my team to make it happen,” Procello said. “Both Company and Foundation financial support are increasingly driven by employees worldwide who connect us with organizations making a difference.”

“All dressed up and no place to go”

Dr. Brenda Manuel, who created and oversees the Young Leaders Program for the school district, says the Avery Dennison Scholarships provided an important missing piece.

“Awarding scholarships had been one of our goals, but we hadn’t been able to make that happen. Now we can train students to be leaders, ask them to exercise their leadership, and then give them scholarships to continue developing as leaders. We can take them from beginning to end.”

Preparing young leaders without helping them go on to college, says Wes Hall, was like leaving them “all dressed up with no place to go.”

Manuel said Avery Dennison’s participation also helped the program attract additional scholarship funds from a local philanthropist, and she is working to get more companies involved.

That’s something Tyler Okeke would like to see. Okeke won a scholarship in 2019, noting in his essay that “being a force for good is not a choice—it is a mandate.” Motivated by his experience as the son of Nigerian immigrants, and by wanting to advance the legacy of union organizers and other activists who he says made it possible for his family to attain a middle-class life, Okeke served as the student representative on the L.A. Unified board and helped run a “Vote at 16” campaign, among other advocacy projects. He’s now in his second year at the University of Chicago, where he’s thinking of majoring in public policy in preparation for law school. He says the $500 scholarship he received from Avery Dennison in 2019 helped him cover the cost of books and other essentials and focus on academics rather than finances.

“I’m incredibly grateful for the scholarship,” said Okeke, noting that he hoped the company would “continue to find opportunities to invest in young people,” including possibly involving Avery Dennison experts from across the company in the Young Leaders Program. 

For now, says Dr. Brenda Manuel, COVID-19 and the resulting economic fallout are making college assistance programs like Avery Dennison’s more crucial than they have ever been.

“The need is great,” she said, “and it’s going to continue to be great.”

Want to help students in the L.A. district?
The Los Angeles Unified School District’s Young Leaders program is looking for volunteers for its “Mentoring On The Clock” program. Time commitment? Just two hours each month. For more information, contact Dr. Brenda Manuel at brenda.manuel@lausd.net.

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