Free, Experiential Programs Aim to Increase Workforce Readiness with Support from Chicago Employer PepsiCo

CHICAGO, June 7, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- Leading South and West Side organizations are offering more summer learning and career development opportunities to Black and Hispanic youth aimed to promote safety and build real-world professional connections. From behind-the-scenes laboratory visits to in-person job shadowing with food & beverage industry professionals, these summer programs will expand current youth programming and include civic leadership, college preparation, career exploration programs and more. The free youth engagement programs are thanks to $130,000 in new grants from PepsiCo as part of the company's PREP (Pathways to Readiness and Empowerment Program), a more than $5 million initiative over five years to increase access to high-quality careers among Black and Hispanic young people on Chicago's South and West Sides. Originally launched by PepsiCo in October 2021, PREP was collaboratively designed with Chicago community leaders including Imagine Englewood if, North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) and others and is now expanding youth programs that had been interrupted or curtailed by COVID-19, as well as adding new, free career program offerings and experiences. 

"From a post-COVID perspective, we are grateful for the program leaders and local organizations who are bringing robust summer activities back in person for Chicago youth," said Claude Robinson, Executive Vice President External Affairs & Diversity of UCAN. "We want to help prevent the 'summer slide,' when students regress academically during the break. Providing youth the opportunity to make in-person career connections can really impact their lives for the better in ways that last far beyond the summer."

"We, as a city, as a community, need to do the work to keep local youth engaged and we need the public sector, private sector and corporate entities to step up as long-standing partners in this work," said Cecile DeMello, Executive Director for Teamwork Englewood. "Youth need to have resources in place where they can feel safe, feel as if they have a purpose, where they can live the life that they desire to live, and ultimately succeed both personally and professionally."

New summer programs funded by PepsiCo include:

The Field Museum of Chicago will offer hands-on field trips with scientists with a focus on careers in STEM. Through Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) and Girls in the Game, young people will participate in the field trips and get a firsthand look at careers in natural science with exclusive interactions with working scientists.

Step Up, a nonprofit that works with teens on becoming confident, career-focused and ready to join the next generation of leaders, will offer youth summer "experienceships" as part of a three-week Career Camp. These immersive learning and career shadowing experiences for young women will be offered and led by two of PepsiCo's female-led Employee Resource Groups: Women of Color and Women's Inclusion Network.

PepsiCo is also providing summer internships, funding and training to eight Cubs Scholars participants, a program of Cubs Charities. Students from East Garfield Park, Brighton Park, Rogers Park and others will be on an intensive six-week learning journey working alongside the company's brands and leaders from Gatorade, PepsiCo Beverages North America and Quaker Oats. 

UCAN, a nonprofit that strives to build strong youth and families through compassionate healing, education and empowerment, is offering interactive Career Exploration Fairs this summer for youth ages 16-24. Led by PepsiCo volunteers, the fairs will offer a look into multiple career paths such as Sales and Merchandising while also providing training for students to help them enhance their personal branding, soft skills, and leadership skills.

Imagine Englewood if (IEi), a nonprofit whose mission is to strengthen and empower the Greater Englewood community through teaching local youth and their families healthy living, environmental awareness, and positive communication skills, will bring youth to PepsiCo's corporate offices at the Old Post Office throughout the summer. Youth participants will gain experiential career exposure, shadowing jobs in Gatorade, Quaker and other PepsiCo brands.

"We want more Black and Hispanic neighbors who know the city and its incredible potential best to help us grow our company's presence and brands here, working with us shoulder to shoulder as employees," said Matt Crocker, PepsiCo Senior Director of Human Resources. "There's no better way for us to do that than by funding highly-effective, trusted community organizations on the South and West Sides who are already getting more neighbors the career resources they need. PepsiCo is proud to help create opportunities for youth on Chicago's South and West Sides as they prepare for fulfilling careers and we hope some of them choose to bring their talent to our PepsiCo Chicago team in the future."

Recognizing that Chicago's Black and Hispanic communities are among those most affected by hunger, often impacting students' school performance, the PepsiCo Foundation has provided more than 250,000 servings of nutritionally balanced meals since establishing a presence in Chicago and will continue to provide meals this summer. The meals are distributed by the Foundation's Food for Good program in partnership with Girls in the Game, Boys Club of Cicero and other Chicago nonprofits.

Additionally, for the second year in a row, PepsiCo is partnering with the Juneteenth Illinois Initiative by investing in its scholarship and mentorship program for college-bound students from Chicago's South and West Sides. Each scholarship recipient will be matched with a mentor to serve as a support system throughout their first year of college—expanding on the PepsiCo Foundation's existing Uplift and S.M.I.L.E. scholarship programs with City Colleges of Chicago which has provided 72 scholarships to date for Black and Hispanic Chicagoans to pursue their education in high-growth industries.

Over the past year, PepsiCo PREP funds have supported leading community organizations including:

Girls in the Game and PepsiCo partnered to provide nearly 50 teens with career exposure and leadership development activities throughout the year. In April, five high school students met with members of PepsiCo's Human Resources team at their new headquarters located at the Old Post Office building. The teens participated in a resume building workshop, received one-on-one instruction, along with receiving professional headshots, which led to two students securing paid summer internship opportunities.

SWOP recognized that their youth organizing efforts needed to include workforce development training that included leadership development as its foundation. SWOP used PREP grants to hire a long-time community leader and workforce development specialist Quabeeny 'Q' Daniels. With this new addition, SWOP will be launching its new training over the summer informed by a series of community focus groups with families and individuals. Through the support of PREP, SWOP looks to increase the network of local employer partners, expand youth access to career pathway programs, connect youth to violence prevention resources and provide youth clear paths to meaningful employment opportunities. 

Teamwork Englewood is working with PepsiCo to increase the company's capacity to host interns from the community that include mentorship and reverse mentorship and center youth voice as part of the process.

Chicago Jesuit Academy is providing stipends to students as they invest in technical training for programs to help them enter the workforce with relevant certification and training to secure a living wage. 

PREP builds on PepsiCo's 120-year history and investment in Chicago. This program is an extension of PepsiCo's Racial Equality Journey, a more than $570 million set of commitments over five years to create opportunity and empower Black and Hispanic people in PepsiCo's workforce, business partnerships and communities.

About PepsiCo
PepsiCo products are enjoyed by consumers more than one billion times a day in more than 200 countries and territories around the world. PepsiCo generated more than $79 billion in net revenue in 2021, driven by a complementary beverage and convenient foods portfolio that includes Lay's, Doritos, Cheetos, Gatorade, Pepsi-Cola, Mountain Dew, Quaker, and SodaStream. PepsiCo's product portfolio includes a wide range of enjoyable foods and beverages, including many iconic brands that generate more than $1 billion each in estimated annual retail sales. Guiding PepsiCo is our vision to Be the Global Leader in Beverages and Convenient Foods by Winning with PepsiCo Positive (pep+).  pep+ is our strategic end-to-end transformation that puts sustainability and human capital at the center of how we will create value and growth by operating within planetary boundaries and inspiring positive change for planet and people. For more information, visit

Jessica Ortiz
Rise Strategy Group
C: 312-550-0102
E: [email protected] 

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SOURCE PepsiCo, Inc.