UNC Charlotte’s Chidi Osakwe, a sophomore Computer Science major in the College of Computing and Informatics (CCI), has earned a prestigious Jesse Jackson Fellows Toyota Scholarship.
Since 2013, Rev. Jesse Jackson and Toyota North America have partnered to provide one of the nation's largest and most robust undergraduate scholarship programs. The renewable award of up to $25,000 annually also includes mentoring, paid co-op internships with Toyota and the potential for future employment after graduation.
Each year, 10 three-year scholarships are awarded nationally to qualifying students who must maintain a minimum grade point average and exhibit sustained growth in business and/or STEM studies.In addition to rewarding exemplary students and cultivating its future workforce, Toyota’s financial obligation to scholarship recipients ensures that they can graduate free of the debt burden under which too many college graduates begin their careers.
A Salisbury native who attended North Rowan High School, Osakwe has always been interested in technology and innovation, which led him to choose UNC Charlotte and CCI for college. “When I was younger,” he says, “I used to mess with computers and my dad would always tell me I may have found something I could be good at.”
Although Osakwe has not settled on a concentration within computer science, he knows he’ll spend the next three summers working at Toyota North America’s facility in Plano, Texas, earning valuable, real-world experience.
“I am eager to be immersed in a work environment within my field of study and absorb all I can to best equip me for my future,” he says, adding, “Being honored by Jesse Jackson, the Rainbow Coalition and Toyota is a dream come true.”
In August, at the Chicago kickoff for Rev. Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition, which provides backpacks and school supplies to children in need, Osakwe and the other 2019 scholarship recipients were recognized and presented as role models to more-than 1,000 students eagerly anticipating receipt of their stuffed book bags.
Rev. Jackson urged the children to have the courage to dream big dreams, pointing to the 2019 Jesse Jackson Fellows Toyota Scholarship class as proof of what is possible when effort and opportunity meet.
In addition to rewarding exemplary students and cultivating its future workforce, Toyota’s financial obligation to scholarship recipients ensures that they can graduate free of the debt burden under which too many college graduates begin their careers.
Rev. Jackson mentioned the $50,000 debt carried by the average African-American college graduate, and said, "Our students are going to escape the prison of debt.”
For Osakwe, the stipend changes his perspective on school and what he can accomplish.
“Removing that financial burden allows me to better focus on my studies and also gives me a chance to enjoy more of the college experience," he says. "I can join more clubs, be more active on campus and attend more games."
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