Taco Bell, Get Schooled And Viacom Join Kendrick Lamar, James Harden And MTV’s Sway Reward And Inspire “Graduate For Mas” Teens In Bethel, Alaska

by LP Green, II

l to r:  Taco Bell CEO Greg Creed, James Harden, Kendrick Lamar and MTV’s Sway

After airlifting tacos to the remote Alaskan community in 2012, Taco Bell returns on a new mission: reward teens for their hard work toward graduation.

Taco Bell Corp., together with the Taco Bell Foundation for Teens; Get Schooled and Viacom’s umbrella for social responsibility, Viacommunity, recognized students in Bethel, Alaska who won an academic competition for their proven commitment to graduating high school with a star-studded celebratory event. Hosted at Bethel Regional High School, the activities included a school assembly with by hip hop artist Kendrick Lamar, MTV news correspondent Sway and NBA player James Harden, and a leadership training course hosted by Taco Bell CEO, Greg Creed.

Get Schooled, and its partners, the Taco Bell Foundation for Teens and Viacom, are recognizing the extraordinary efforts of Bethel Regional High School’s staff, students and community.

“Bethel is an example of what can happen when an entire community comes together to support students in reaching their goals,” said Marie Groark, executive director of the Get Schooled Foundation. “Get Schooled, Taco Bell and Viacom are excited to show Bethel’s teens that their hard work and commitment to creating positive futures did not go unnoticed.”

MTV news correspondent Sway said, “As part of the Viacom family, I’ve had the privilege to join in on numerous events for Viacommunity and for Get Schooled, which speaks directly to students and inspires them to do what they need to on the road to success. I’m proud to have the chance to celebrate Bethel’s teens and the investment they made in themselves and their futures.”

In the spring of 2013, Get Schooled, a national non-profit, sponsored the three-month competition involving 325 high schools in 14 states aimed at improving college readiness. Bethel’s student council spearheaded the effort by mobilizing their peers to participate in the competition and prepare for college. As a result of their efforts, Bethel’s students seized the top prize, coming together to achieve a 100 percent participation rate in activities such as Twitter chats with college experts and college exploratory sessions.

Most importantly, more than 80 percent of its graduating seniors worked with their College & Career Guide to apply to college or technical schools. Four other Alaska College & Career Advising Corps high schools placed in the top 15. The friendly competition was supported by USA Funds.

“In the beginning, a lot of students thought our school was too small, and we didn’t have a chance,” said former Bethel student leader Alfred Wallace, 18, now a freshman at the University of Alaska, Anchorage. “But once we came together as a unified student body, we realized that we could compete with students from all over the country. By winning, we were able to show that all it takes is motivation and energy, and even the small town of Bethel can succeed in a national competition.”

Bethel’s impressive solidarity from the student body and support from the local community not only helped the school beat out 325 other high schools to win the competition, but also inspired Taco Bell’s CEO, Greg Creed. He committed to return to Bethel and help the teens achieve mas by personally conducting a leadership course.

The high school celebration represents Taco Bell’s second visit to Bethel, a uniquely remote community accessible only by plane or ship. Following a 2012 hoax that convinced Bethel’s residents that a Taco Bell restaurant would open in their city and left them disappointed to find it untrue, Taco Bell airlifted a Taco Truck to the rural community, feeding 10,000 people and awarding a $10,000 grant to its local high school.

“At Taco Bell, we passionately serve each other and the communities around us. We made it to Bethel once, against all odds. The opportunity to return shows that feeding people’s lives with ‘mas’ can mean much more than just giving them food,” said Taco Bell CEO Greg Creed. “It can mean helping them find their purpose and giving them the tools they need to get there.”

For more than 20 years, the Taco Bell Foundation for Teens has dedicated its efforts to identifying and addressing the issues that teens face as they navigate the path to graduation. Its core programs include Graduate for Mas, a digital platform co-created with Get Schooled that provides the tools, support and community resources high school students need to graduate high school and achieve mas. Since its May launch, more than 25,000 teens have made the Graduate for Mas pledge to graduate.

For more information on Taco Bell and its Foundation, visit TacoBell.com and TacoBellForTeens.org. To learn more about Get Schooled, visit GetSchooled.com. For more information about Viacommunity, visit viacommunity.com.

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