Earlier this month, the Foundations of East Chicago (FEC) celebrated its 20th annual scholarship award reception. Nearly 100 students were awarded a combined $1 million in scholarship money. However, this program was not always this large. It started with just $20,000 and three students in the year 1998. Tanesia Washington, now Tanesia Cole, was one of those original scholarship recipients.
Tanesia graduated from East Chicago Central High School in 1998, when she received a $5,000 scholarship from FEC. She used that money to receive her Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from Purdue University.
“My mom was a single parent who couldn’t afford to send me to college,” said Tanesia. “I knew I wanted to go and use what I’d learned over the years to better myself and to help her. The FEC scholarship was one of many that I applied for to ensure I was able to attend college.”
During her time at Purdue, Tanesia got involved in several organizations, including the Minority Engineering Program and the women’s intramural flag football team. She was also able to get some experience in her field with a paid internship at Air Products and Chemicals, where she worked for three years.
“The scholarship allowed me to really focus on my coursework,” she said. “Yes, I worked during the year, but that was mainly so I could have money to have fun. Since I chose to remain in state, the scholarship covered all of my tuition.”
After college, Tanesia was offered a job in a management training program with Quaker Oats, a division of PepsiCo. She knew she didn’t want to pass up this opportunity, even if it wasn’t in her field of chemical engineering, so she took it.
“I trained in quality and operations, was promoted and even moved within the PepsiCo organization,” said Tanesia.
Quaker then gave her the opportunity to pursue an MBA while still working. She took it and obtained her second degree from DeVry University’s Keller Graduate School of Management. Tanesia now holds a management position at US Foods, and it all started because of her drive to do whatever it takes to get to college.
“I was determined to go to college, but couldn’t see the path to get there,” she said. “FEC provided that path and helped me start my professional career.”
To learn more about FEC scholarship recipients from the past 20 years, visit www.FoundationsEC.org.