PECO scholarship program helps blaze trail for high potential students with financial challenges
In her North Philadelphia home, Michelle Marie Rosado’s mother, Luz, has a glass-doored cabinet entirely devoted to her daughter’s academic accomplishments — dean’s lists, the Hispanic Leaders of the Future Award, Phi Theta Kappa and Alpha Beta Gamma honor society certificates and other honors line its shelves.
Luz, a single mother with three daughters, has reason to be proud. Rosado, an Accounting and Finance major in Temple’s Fox School of Business, is the first in their family to go to college, an achievement her mother had always dreamed possible for her.
On April 23, at an intimate ceremony at PECO headquarters, Michelle, with tears in her eyes, handed her mother one more prize for the cabinet — a certificate declaring Michelle a 2013 PECO Scholar, an honor that brings with it a partial scholarship.
Now in its third year, the PECO Scholars Program awards $25,000 to students who demonstrate a high degree of academic achievement and leadership potential but who still have unmet financial need. In coordination with Temple’s Russell Conwell Center, the program has identified and awarded scholarships to 36 students.
Rosado exemplifies the kind of student PECO is hoping to reach. She has traveled a winding path to higher education, and with few role models to learn from and few frames of reference, she’s had to blaze her own trail.
She worked part time to pay, semester by semester, for an associate’s degree at the Community College of Philadelphia. She then transferred to Temple and has just finished her first year. Along the way, she has made it a point to volunteer, be it for the Upward Bound Program or the Campaign for Working Families.
Her primary concern was financial. As an accounting major, she knew the potential drawbacks of the student loans she needed to take out. So when she received notice that she had been awarded the PECO Scholarship, her first reaction was relief. “Wow,” she recalls thinking. “This is going to help a lot.”
At the reception, which Rosado’s mother attended as did the 14 other 2013 PECO Scholars, PECO Chief Operating Officer Michael Innocenzo noted that both he and many of the company’s employees — at least 70 of whom are Temple alumni — have walked in their shoes.
“I first started working for this company as a co-op student taking out the trash on the fourth floor,” said Innocenzo. “And my message to you, having spent 25 years working my way up, is simple: Never miss the opportunity to show people who you are.”
When it was her turn to speak on behalf of the scholars, Rosado shared her story, and told the PECO employees that she hopes to one day be the role model that they have been for her.
It was a message that rang true for Temple alumna Tiffany Tavarez, PECO’s corporate contributions manager. Afterward, she took Rosado aside to tell her that she had traveled the same path. She gave Rosado her business card and told her to call any time for mentorship or advice.
“I am proud to work for a company that truly values the investment it makes in the future leadership of this city and this region through educational opportunity and scholarship,” Tavarez said later. “I was able to afford a college education due to someone’s philanthropy, too.”
“This program reminds me that, for all we do, we, like Temple, are ultimately in the people business,” said Innocenzo. “And as far as I’m concerned, having seen these scholars here today, this program is an excellent investment and money well spent.”