Chemistry, chemical engineering major receives $75,000 scholarship for STEM students

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Raven Smith

A student at Virginia Commonwealth University is among 10 students across the country receiving an inaugural $75,000 Jesse L. Jackson Sr. Fellows Scholarship.

“It’s hard to describe, or even to fathom, what an honor it is to have been selected for this amazing award,” said Raven Smith, who is majoring in chemical engineering in the School of Engineering and chemistry in the College of Humanities and Sciences. “Due to the amount of financial aid I’ll be receiving with the scholarship, it is akin to a full ride, so, needless to say, I was, and still am beyond thankful and blessed to have received this scholarship.”

I was, and still am beyond thankful and blessed to have received this scholarship.

The scholarships, which are awarded by a partnership of Toyota and Rainbow PUSH Excel, support college students who are studying science, technology, engineering, math or business. The recipients must also demonstrate participation in community service and be in financial need.

As part of the scholarships, the recipients will be paired with mentors from Toyota management and will have the opportunity to take part in summer internships at Toyota facilities across North America.

“While this will certainly be an adventure, my first time truly away from home and out in the real world, it is one for which I am certainly up to task and more than ready,” Smith said.

Simon Nagata, chief administrative officer for Toyota North America, praised the scholarship recipients in a news release, noting that they were selected from hundreds of applicants. The finalists were selected through a rigorous process involving written essays, letters of recommendations and rounds of onsite interviews involving several members of Rainbow PUSH Excel, as well as Toyota’s executive and management teams in Northern Kentucky.

“Toyota is proud to recognize and invest in the outstanding academic achievements of these 10 scholars,” he said. “The commitment to community service and personal excellence of these future leaders is truly inspiring, and we are excited to be a part of their journey.”

The scholarship provides $25,000 each year for up to three years. In order to remain eligible, the recipients must maintain a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0.

Smith, from Virginia Beach, was selected for her 4.0 GPA, for graduating high school at the age of 16, and for her involvement in numerous organizations, such as the National Society of Collegiate Scholars.

“I think what made me stand out is the drive that my parents instilled in myself and my older sisters at a young age,” she said. “This drive, I believe, was and continues to be evident in all that I do.”

While Smith is in her second year at VCU, she is classified as a junior because she entered VCU with 36 college credits, thanks to the nine Advanced Placement classes she took in high school.

Smith, who received the scholarship recently at the annual Rainbow PUSH Back-To-School Rally in Chicago, said she is looking forward to interning at Toyota, and she is looking ahead to launching her career.

“My career plans are a bit fluid at the moment,” she said. “I entered college with plans to attend veterinary school after earning my bachelor’s. While I may still choose this path, chemical engineering is becoming more and more appealing, and, particularly with this opportunity to work for Toyota, I may end up choosing to stay in my current field. Which path will I ultimately decide upon? Only time can tell.”


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