Fueling the future: Interns bring fresh energy to PepsiCo's 35th Street distribution center

Pepsico’s $5m community program enters third year of impact with youth from Chicago’s South and West Sides

Building on its more than 100-year history in Chicago, local employer PepsiCo is entering the third year of its $5 million Pathways to Readiness and Empowerment Program (PREP), which aims to advance career opportunities for at least 3,000 youth from the South and West Sides.

Since launching PREP in 2021, PepsiCo has invested in grassroots organizations that provide career resources to more than 2,200 youth and young adults through career exposure, paid internships, credentialing and full-time employment.

 Based on the efficacy of community-based programming and the outsized impact of PepsiCo’s recent grants to local nonprofits, the company recommits to helping support the great potential of youth on the South and West Sides, awarding $250,000 to Imagine Englewood if, Girls in the Game, Chicago Cares, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago, Field Museum, Ladies of Virtue and Southwest Organizing Project.

Ladies of Virtue (LOV) is a powerful organization empowering girls in Chicago’s underserved areas through effective mentoring and leadership programs – reaching 500 girls in 2023 alone with high school seniors involved achieving a 100% college acceptance rate. PepsiCo’s engagement with LOV is multidimensional, including funding to LOV distributed as stipends to high school students in STEM-focused internships at the Field Museum and a co-designed career exploration experience with PepsiCo that included a pitch contest in which students proposed new product ideas to a panel of leaders at the company’s downtown headquarters.

“Financial support for local organizations on the South and West Sides has decreased, while community needs persist,” said Jamila Trimuel, the founder of Ladies of Virtue. “Our dedication is unwavering, but additional support is crucial. Partners like PepsiCo are game changers and their value goes beyond dollars. We count on partners to tackle challenges together and sustain their commitment in order to create lasting wins for our youth.”

Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP)–a broad-based organization of 43 member institutions–pioneered a workforce program that opens doors to high-quality career opportunities, reaching 200 community members with employment, career training, interview and resume support, and youth internships in 2023 with PepsiCo seed funding.

SWOP anticipates enrolling approximately 100 neighbors into the career program annually which they estimate will result in $4 million each year in income gained through direct employment being invested back into the community and improving the quality of life for Southwest Chicago residents.

“Working day in and day out with our community partners, I see firsthand the positive impact these groups have in people’s lives,” said Brittany N. Wilson, PepsiCo Chicago Community Relations Manager. “These organizations are rooted exactly where their work happens, which means they intrinsically understand local needs and are best suited to unlock tremendous potential in Chicago’s vibrant South and West Side communities.

“That’s why PepsiCo remains unwavering in our commitment to support these hyperlocal community networks that empower and uplift young people every day. With their partnership, this year we’re proud to scale our paid community-based internship program, launch even more career exposure programs, and hire more community members as part of our Chicagoland PepsiCo team.”