IRVINE, Calif., Feb 17, 2012 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- One of Taco Bell founder Glen Bell's recipes for success: don't be embarrassed by your circumstances if you're working hard to improve them.
Since 1992, the company Bell started has given more than $30 million to teen serving organizations providing more than one million at-risk youth with opportunities to reach their full potential as productive, caring and educated adults. In celebration of its 20th anniversary, the Taco Bell Foundation for Teens today announced that it will again offer a Graduate To Go(TM) experience for teens at the Taco Bell Skills Challenge during the NBA All-Star 2012 in Orlando later this month.
In partnership with NBA Cares, each Taco Bell Skills Challenge player will be paired with an All-Star teen from an Orlando area Boys & Girls Club who has shown outstanding leadership and determination to stay in school despite personal obstacles. All participating teens will receive the Graduate to Go(TM) experience of a lifetime: a behind-the-scenes career tour of NBA All-Star; an opportunity to meet with NBA players; the chance to be on the court during the Taco Bell Skills Challenge to cheer on their NBA player; and an educational scholarship. The teen paired with the winning Taco Bell Skills Challenge player will also receive a $25,000 educational scholarship, all courtesy of the Taco Bell Foundation for Teens.
Last year's Graduate to Go winners, who took part in the 2011 Taco Bell Skills Challenge at NBA All-Star in Los Angeles, have set significant milestones since their inspiring experience:
-- Karen Batani ($30,000 winner; Boys & Girls Club of L.A. Harbor). Karen will graduate this spring and is in the process of applying to her top college choices: San Diego State University, Cal State East Bay and Marquette University. Said Batani: "This experience has truly changed my life forever. It feels incredible to no longer have to worry about money for college. I have decided to pursue great things throughout my community and at school. I want to ensure that I give back, since the Taco Bell Foundation for Teens has given so much to me."
-- Violet Miehle ($10,000 winner; Boys & Girls Club of Malibu). Since winning her scholarship, Violet has gone on to become a finalist for Pacific Region Boys & Girls Club Youth of the Year. She is now in her freshman year at the University of Redlands, majoring in education with focus in special education. "Being a part of the Taco Bell NBA All Star experience was more than just an amazing experience. I have never felt as special as I did that day. It validated me as a person and gave me the confidence I needed to keep moving forward in my life; it truly was the launching pad I needed to move forward."
-- Abigail Zepeda ($5,000 winner, Boys & Girls Club of San Pedro). Abigail has a hearing disability in both ears. Her Graduate to Go experience, appearing on live television for the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, helped build her confidence and gave her the courage to pursue her dream of going to USC. Abigail is now a Trojan and just finished her first semester, majoring in sociology.
-- Daniel Diaz ($5,000 winner, Boys & Girls Club of Oxnard). Daniel was named the 2011 Youth of the Year for his exemplary service to his Boys & Girls Club of Greater Oxnard and Port Hueneme and his community. He is now in his first semester at Ventura College.
-- Xavier Butler (18 years old, Challengers Boys & Girls Club). Xavier is now a freshman at Santa Monica College and is still pursuing a basketball scholarship.
"Graduate To Go" is an initiative developed by the Taco Bell Foundation For Teens to fund real-world experiences focused on career, community and education to motivate teens to stay in school. In 2012, Taco Bell Foundation For Teens will distribute more than $3.5 million in local grants to over 300 teen-serving organizations throughout the country. Since 1995 the Foundation has been the largest teen program donor to Boys & Girls Clubs of America. For more information, go to www.GraduateToGo.com or join Graduate To Go on Facebook.