PepsiCo Uplift Scholar Finds Land of Opportunity at MATC

Mexico native learns English, earns GED and now associate degree from college

Mark Feldmann,

December 16, 2022

Mario Moreno

MILWAUKEE - Mario Moreno didn’t know a single word of English when he arrived in Milwaukee from Mexico in 1995.

“But I knew I needed to learn some,” he said. “And as fast as possible.”

Two weeks after his arrival in America he enrolled in English as Second Language courses at Milwaukee Area Technical College.

Within a year, he also attained his General Equivalency Development (GED) diploma from MATC. He wanted to start college classes but couldn’t afford it without borrowing money.

“I didn’t want to take out any loans,” he said. “So I put college on hold.”

He started his own graphic design and marketing business, creating logos, business cards and websites for several small- and medium-sized firms.

But when the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out much of his customer base, he decided to give college another try.

This fall, he heard about the PepsiCo Uplift Scholarship for Black and Hispanic/Latino/a students. He applied and received $2,000 to cover his tuition, allowing him to concentrate on coursework and not be concerned about finances.

On December 18, Moreno, who has compiled a 4.0 grade point average at MATC, will earn an associate degree from MATC’s Information Technology Mobile Applications Developer program.

“I feel very, very fortunate,” Moreno said. “The scholarship itself has been a big, big help. It takes a weight off your shoulders. I also really like attending the meetings and seminars they have offered. Hearing from professionals in the field has really helped me a lot.”

The PepsiCo Uplift Scholarships come from a $500,000 gift made by the PepsiCo Foundation to the MATC Foundation to help Black and Hispanic/Latino/a students complete degrees, technical diplomas and certificates in high-growth career areas such as business, information technology, logistics, manufacturing and transportation.

The scholarships include financial support for tuition, fees and books; support from a dedicated MATC advisor; and access to emergency funds to help with housing, child care, transportation and food expenses.

Moreno used some of those additional funds to help purchase a new, faster computer to run the new software applications being discussed in his classes. “These funds are there, and I would urge students to ask about them,” he said. “They can make a big difference.”

MATC is the only Wisconsin technical college to receive funding from the PepsiCo Foundation and one of only 20 colleges nationally. 

MATC’s first 40 PepsiCo Uplift scholars were announced for the Spring 2022 semester and another 40 were named for the Fall 2022 semester. Forty more scholars will be selected each semester in 2023, for a total of 160 scholars over two years.

The scholarships are part of PepsiCo’s Racial Equality Journey, a comprehensive, national initiative to support Black and Hispanic/Latino/a communities, people and businesses.

Moreno said he plans to use his degree to enhance his services at his marketing business and to try and secure a position at a technology company.

“I really like this field because it’s always changing,” he said. “I love learning new things. If everything stayed the same, I would just get bored.”

About MATC: Wisconsin’s largest technical college and one of the most diverse two-year institutions in the Midwest, Milwaukee Area Technical College is a key driver of southeastern Wisconsin’s economy and has provided innovative education in the region since 1912. More than 25,000 students per year attend the college’s four campuses and community-based sites or learn online. MATC offers affordable and accessible education and training opportunities that empower and transform lives in the community. The college offers more than 170 academic programs — many that prepare students for jobs immediately upon completion and others that provide transfer options leading to bachelor’s degrees with more than 40 four-year colleges and universities. Overwhelmingly, MATC graduates build careers and businesses in southeastern Wisconsin. The college is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.