The Taco Train to Times Square: a Delicious Start to Paying for College

by Marie Groark, Executive Director, Get Schooled

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Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman and others ringing the bell at the NASDAQ exchange. Read More

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They call Times Square the Crossroads of the World. It is the hub of media, arts, and business in New York City.  Tens of thousands of New Yorkers work in Times Square and millions of tourists flock to it every year. So what better place to recognize some of America’s greatest high school students.

For the third straight year, Get Schooled, Viacom and the Taco Bell Foundation teamed up to create the largest virtual yearbook on the Viacom Billboards in the heart of Times Square. Close to 1,500 students applied to be part of the Times Square Yearbook by sharing what they did this school year to “realize their potentials.” Of those applications, 500 students from 42 states were features on the billboard, spotlighting the students’ passion determination and hard work. Students photos and their accomplishments were broadcast from Viacom’s billboard through the busy lunch hour and photos of themselves in the heart of Times Square were sent to each winning student.  Students took to twitter to share the photo of themselves and their excitement: “Thank you so much for featuring me in #timesquareyearbook it’s such an exciting experience!!”

Of those 500, 60 local high school students and guests were invited to participate in the ultimate VIP end of school year celebration that included guest appearances by Grammy Nominated Singer and Get Schooled Celebrity Ambassador Omarion, Taco Bell CEO Brian Niccol, and MTV’s Sway Calloway. The teens, representing 16 high school across New York, New Jersey and Connecticut engaged in a dialogue about the issues that matter most to them, their pride at being the first in their family to go to college and their determination to stay focused, no matter the distractions. The event culminated with the students each receiving a $1,000 scholarship to continue their education.

Noemi Cobarrubian and Luis Miranda, who recently graduated from high school in Compton, California, flew to New York to attend the event. “I think it’s great that Get Schooled and Viacom has all these celebrities here and this giant event to encourage kids to get their education and graduate,” said Miranda, who will attend Cal State Long Beach in the fall to study biology. Cobarrubian, who will study psychology at UCLA, agreed.

The event wrapped up with a singing competition that earned a handful of winners PS Vita gaming systems. One of the winners, New York City high school student Nneka Williams, planned to give her system to her little brother. She is focused on the fall, when she will start at Cornell University to study animal sciences. Asked what she would take away from the Get Schooled event to help her succeed next year, Williams said, “There’s always someone there to help you succeed, enough people that will help you progress your life and go on so you can do well. That’s your whole support system. That’s really nice.”

The day began at NASDAQ where Philippe Dauman, CEO of Viacom, and Brian Niccol, CEO of Taco Bell, rang the bell in celebration of the work Viacom, Get Schooled and the Taco Bell Foundation have done in partnership since 2013: Reached more than 1,800 high schools, encouraged more than 350,000 students to make a commitment to graduate from high school, and distributed more than $500,000 in scholarships.

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