By Matt Nauman
SAN RAMON – Omotayo “Tayo” Olukoya came prepared for a final interview, complete with his resume in a folder and his aunt at his side, thinking he was a candidate for a 2013 PG&E Bright Minds Scholarship.
Instead, in an emotional, joyous event at PG&E’s Bishop Ranch complex in San Ramon, Tayo discovered he had won the scholarship – worth up to $30,000 a year and renewable for up to five years.
And he was told by Tony Earley, PG&E’s CEO, chairman and president, and Jesus Soto Jr., the company’s senior vice president of gas transmission operations, in a room full of 50 PG&E employees.
For a second, Tayo was speechless. Then a broad smile crossed his face. Then he started talking, thanking PG&E, and God and his family.
“I am overwhelmed,” he said. “I applied and I prayed hard. This is just amazing.”
Tayo will soon transfer from Chabot College in Hayward to the University of California, Berkeley where he will study electrical engineering. In Nigeria, he took apart and tried to put together television sets as a youngster. In the United States — he arrived in 2008 — he worked at Target in electronic sales to pay for his education. He said he loves math and science and is fascinated by electronics.
His aunt, Christiana Oluduro, says the family has always known that Tayo was brilliant and hard-working. “He had this interest when he was very young,” she said. “He messed with many TVs.” She applauded and smiled when she heard the news about his scholarship.
Tayo is the eldest of seven children and the first in his family to go to college. Soto noted that he, too, was a first-generation college student. And he said that PG&E loves supporting education, especially for students who will be studying engineering. “We changed somebody’s life today,” he said.
Earley said the surprise announcement was a great day for the company. In addition to the 10 $30,000 winners, the Bright Minds program will award $2,500 to more than 90 finalists.
PG&E’s $1 million Bright Minds Scholarship program is just one of the ways the company supports education. The long list ranges from paying for New Energy Academies at five high schools to providing Bright Ideas grants to many schools throughout the service area.
The other nine students who won the $30,000 scholarships include Daniel Hardin, an aspiring civil rights attorney who will attend San Francisco State; Carlos Corona, a Fresno City College student and U.S. Army veteran; Lake County student Laura Onate Solis; Danny Wong, a graduate of Oakdale High School in Stanislaus County; Aaron Sproul from Cal State-Bakersfield; Sierra MacLeod from Galt in Sacramento County; San Luis Obispo High School student Emma Phillips; community college student Christina Taft from Paradise in Butte County; and Evy Peng, a San Francisco high school student who moved from China five years ago.
The students were among more than 6,000 applicants.
“My journey has been long but I feel as if everything is coming into place,” Tayo said. “This is a wonderful year.”
Email Matt Nauman at email@example.com.