By James Green
How do you convince 50 people to keep a secret? PG&E’s Jesus Soto did it by telling a group of PG&E employees gathered in San Ramon that Omotayo “Tayo” Olukoya thought he was coming for a final interview as part of the application process for a 2013 PG&E Bright Minds scholarship. But Soto knew better.
“He’s in for a big surprise,” Soto, PG&E’s senior vice president of gas transmission operations, told the group.
And when Tayo found out he had won a 2013 PG&E Bright Minds scholarship, he was more than surprised. He was speechless.
“This is unbelievable. I’m still in shock,” he said.
The scholarship is worth up to $30,000 a year and it’s renewable to enable hard-working students to complete their educations. In addition to the 10 $30,000 winners, the Bright Minds program will award $2,500 to more than 90 finalists.
Tayo is the eldest of seven children. He came to the United States from Nigeria just 5 years ago. The scholarship will enable him to study electrical engineering at UC-Berkeley.
What happened to Tayo happened to nine other students in Northern and Central California over the past month. Each has a great story to tell.
Evy Peng from San Francisco learned she was a winner at a Giants game. She works at the baseball stadium to help support her family. She’ll be going to UC-Berkeley.
Christina Taft of Paradise already has earned two associate degrees. She’ll be going to Chico State and hopes to become a nurse.
Sierra MacLeod overcame a speech impediment and says giving a graduation speech after 8th grade is one of her proudest moments. The Sacramento County student will be going to UCLA.
Aaron Sproul from Kern County dealt with health and family issues and now takes a 4 point 0 GPA from community college to Cal State Bakersfield.
Danny Wong is a caretaker for his blind father and his sister. The Stanislaus County resident will be attending UCLA.
Laura Onate Solis lives in a teen homeless shelter. This fall, the Lake County student will start studying biology as a pre-med major at UC-Davis.
Carlos Corona is an Army veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He will start studying at Fresno State this fall.
And Daniel Hardin of Menlo Park wants to be a civil rights attorney. He plans to continue his education at San Francisco State.
Emma Phillips from San Luis Obispo was typical in her reaction. “I’m just giddy,” she said. She’ll use her Bright Minds scholarship at Brown University.
Tony Earley, PG&E’s CEO and chairman, took part in the surprise announcement in San Ramon. And Jesus Soto summed up the entire Bright Minds experience nicely.
“We just changed his life,” he said.
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