Sonoma student wins $10,000 scholarship from Taco Bell

“I was honestly so excited,” Karla Escobar said. Escobar has worked at Taco Bell for a little over a year.|

Out of the blue, last week Santa Rosa Junior College freshman Karla Escobar received a telephone call she’ll never forget from her manager at a local Taco Bell restaurant.

“I was honestly so excited,” Escobar said. “She told me her manager had just called her to tell me I won a $10,000 scholarship. I was at a loss for words. I had been working three jobs and being a full-time college student, I was trying to save up as much money as I can to be able to pay off college when I transfer into a university. I am beyond happy that Taco Bell is able to support me financially to achieve my dreams.”

Escobar, formerly known as Karla Perez, is the only Sonoma resident to receive a Taco Bell Foundation Live Mas Scholarship from the Taco Bell Foundation this year. Up to $7 million in scholarships were awarded to ambitious students ages 16 to 26 across the country, including more than $2 million specifically for Taco Bell team members who have been part of a team for at least 30 consecutive days. The awards are $5,000, $10,000 and $25,000 per student. To raise money for the scholarship fund, the Taco Bell Foundation partners with Taco Bell restaurants to host national fundraisers twice per year.

Escobar, 18, has worked for Taco Bell for one year and two months. She plans to use the scholarship money to help pay for her tuition, books and classes for the rest of her school career.

Scholarship applicants were not required to submit grades, essays or test scores, and winners can use the funds for several education paths, including community colleges and trade schools. Like other applicants for the scholarships, Escobar needed to submit a two-minute video describing her passion, a positive change she wants to make in the world and how her education will help her achieve that goal.

“In the video, I stated that my passion is criminal justice and a positive change that I want to make in this world is for people to be able to have their voices heard,” she said. “Not a lot of people get the help they need from our system, and I want to be able to help those families who want answers. My education will help me achieve that because I am studying everything about laws and how the system works so that I will know about people’s rights.”

She plans to focus on forensic science in her career so that she can become a crime scene investigator and hopes to obtain a business entrepreneurship certificate.

Escobar believes that she was chosen as a winner because of her passion to help people.

“Growing up, it was always something I enjoyed doing,” she said. “I used to help teach kids how to swim and help them in Catholic school. I volunteer in Plaza events in our community and when I was in high school, I always enjoyed helping out during events.”

The annual Live Mas Scholarship winners join a community of passionate change-makers and gain access to real-world opportunities, professional connections and a nationwide mentorship network.

“We join this community to be able to help our own community and help our world become a better place,” Escobar said. “We are people who want to better our world, and leaders will help us succeed in fulfilling our dreams and give us advice on how to help our community more. In a way, we all become a family that is passionate about changing the world.”

Escobar provides words of thanks and encouragement to others.

“I would like to specifically thank all my co-workers, family and teachers who pushed me to never give up on something I truly love,” she said. “A piece of advice I received, which everyone deserves to hear, is don’t give up and continue to fight for what you love — you will get your good luck charm soon. You may be on a rocky road, but it gets better and will be worth it. Never think you can’t do something, because you can. There is always a better way.”

Reach the reporter, Dan Johnson, at

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