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Chobani Pledges Over $1 Million To Underserved Students

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Education and intelligence are two very different ideas but equally necessary for moving society forward. Education is the backbone of society. Without a well-educated public, it is unlikely that we would have progressed so far in just a few thousand years. But as essential as our nation’s system of schools and universities is, it is still far from perfect. 

A college degree has become increasingly essential to get a decent-paying job, but it isn’t necessarily a guarantee of intelligence. Natural aptitude doesn’t always rise to the top. The greater opportunities afforded to those attending prestigious universities and private schools create a significant cost barrier for those coming from humble backgrounds.

How would the country benefit from a system that allows those with the highest natural aptitude to be funneled through secondary education regardless of economic background? Look at professional basketball. Because of the sport’s popularity even at the high school level, if the team’s tallest 10th grader comes from a low-income background, the school will generally continue to back him financially due to its desire to have a better program and more funding. 

As long as his talent continues to impress, the player will be given more chances to get into a decent college and hopefully make an NBA roster, regardless of his family’s income level. The NBA is full of these success stories. Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo went from regularly missing meals as a homeless teenager in Greece to becoming a two-time Most Valuable Player winner and now reigning Finals champion, all because league scouts saw his potential in 2012. 

Photo Courtesy Will Barkoff

It seems that yogurt giant Chobani wants to apply a similar concept to non-athletes. The company announced in January that it was expanding its Scholars Program, which will give out eight scholarships per year to students from low-opportunity backgrounds who intend to major in agriculture, dairy, food science, or food entrepreneurship. While these prospective college students aren’t over 6’5’’ and don’t have a recorded 40-yard dash time, they arguably have as much potential to change the world in the next few decades. 

The scholarships will be limited to students attending Cornell University and the University of Idaho. Each scholarship will cover $20,000 and be distributed to each student in $5,000 increments over four years.

Through 2027, Chobani will be donating $1.4 million to the program. “We’re proud to be supporting dozens of current students in our home states of Idaho and New York, and we’re thrilled to be expanding the Chobani Scholars program,” said Chobani’s then President and CEO Peter McGuinness.

Photo Courtesy Joshua Hoehne

The program has only been around since 2018 but has already created a fair share of success stories. Libby Swatling will graduate from Cornell in 2024 as an animal science major focusing on dairy management, in large part due to the support of the Chobani scholarship.

“Not being from a farm and going to an urbanized school with no FFA Program means that I miss out on some scholarships,” said Swatling of the opportunity. “[Chobani] continually reminds me that in the future, I want to be able to encourage and support those ‘non-farm’ kids to get involved and follow their passion in the industry.”


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