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$2,500 scholarship helps Yvana Candelario Ocasio with college expenses
When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in 2017, Yvana Candelario Ocasio and her family fled to a shelter. The Category 4 storm, which came just two weeks after Hurricane Irma, devastated her neighborhood, shuttered her school and led her to eventually relocate to the U.S. mainland – where her dad was stationed at a military base in Alabama - in search of a new normal.
Given these challenging circumstances, attending college could have easily seemed out of reach. But, when Yvana was surprised to receive the first Chick-fil-A Remarkable Futures™ scholarship awarded in Puerto Rico, pursuing a degree became possible again.
After-school visits to a Chick-fil-A restaurant in high school led to part-time work in college
One day, Yvana’s new friends at her new school took her to a Chick-fil-A® restaurant, where she was impressed not only with the food, but also the hospitality she’d heard so much about. Once she graduated high school and enrolled at a local community college, she decided to apply for a part-time job there, believing it would make a great environment for her first work experience. This decision ultimately led her back home.
“After four years in the U.S., I was at a crossroads, trying to decide if I should transfer to a bigger college in Alabama or return to Puerto Rico,” she said. “About this time, the Operator at my Restaurant told me that Chick-fil-A was planning to expand to Puerto Rico, so I took that as a sign that I needed to go back home.”
How Chick-fil-A led Yvana back to her homeland
Yvana was one of the first recruits at the first Puerto Rican Chick-fil-A restaurant located at Los Filtros in Bayamon, a suburb of San Juan.
“Caitlin, my Operator, asked me if I’d be willing to serve as a shift leader, since I had previous experience,” she remembered. “I loved helping new hires learn the business.” Over time, Yvana covered morning and evening shifts, getting the full restaurant experience.
She remembered local Owner-Operator Caitlin Chavez was always present during those long days and the two would end many nights chatting about what went well and what they could improve upon, based on the day’s experiences.
By now, Yvana was enrolled at Universidad de Puerto Rico in Rio Piedras. Even though she was living with her maternal grandparents and had a Federal Pell Grant, the extra costs of a computer, books and public transportation were a strain on her budget.
“Yvana always goes above and beyond for her fellow teammates, so I wanted to nominate her for a Remarkable Futures Scholarship,” Caitlin said. “She has a desire to continue learning and growing and I knew it could make a difference for her and her family.”
A surprise visit turned into a scholarship
Last February, when Chick-fil-A CEO Andrew Cathy visited Puerto Rico to tour restaurants on the island, Caitlin told Yvana that he had requested to meet with all the new store leaders. Yvana had class that day but got permission from her professors to leave early so she could make the meeting. When she arrived, she was the only leader present. Andrew Cathy approached her with a telltale red envelope, which she recognized as a Chick-fil-A Remarkable Futures Scholarship presentation.
Yvana says that her Chick-fil-A restaurant has become so much like family that her siblings want in on the action. Recently, her 16-year-old brother joined her team, and her younger sister is planning to interview as soon as she is eligible.
“When my dad called to congratulate me, he asked if I was thinking about changing my career plans from sociology to Chick-fil-A,” she smiled. “It’s possible—I met a Chick-fil-A recruiter who told me she majored in sociology as well.”
Who knows? Maybe that’s a remarkable sign of the remarkable future to come.