Sunday, May 13, 2007

Toyota Awards $1.12 Million in Scholarships to 100 High School Seniors

LOUISVILLE, Ky., May 11 /PRNewswire/ -- Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc., (TMS) rewarded 100 high school seniors with $1.12 million in college scholarships for their commitment to education and community service at an awards banquet tonight.

The winners, who make up the 11th class of Toyota Community Scholars, were chosen from a pool of more than 8,000 students nationwide nominated by their schools. To be eligible, students must be proven leaders both in the classroom and in their communities.

Based on the countless service projects conducted by the 2007 class, it is clear these 100 students view community service not as an obligation, but a way of life. As one Scholar, Brian Fontenot of Baytown, Texas, put it: "I have found that the influence volunteering has had on me is not one big factor, but many small details merged together, shaping who I am, how much I understand about life and teaching me compassion toward others."

For the 2007 class, their dreams of making a difference became reality through programs ranging from raising $25,000 toward the fight against muscular dystrophy to the promotion of hydrogen fuel cells as an alternative to gas-fueled engines to combating hunger through the growing of over 111,000 pounds of fresh vegetables that were then donated to local food pantries.

"What these 100 high school seniors have accomplished in regard to community service and academics at such a young age is truly amazing," said Michael Rouse, TMS corporate manager of philanthropy and community affairs. "Their commitment to helping those in need is inspiring. The future holds no limits; we are convinced they will have a very positive impact on the world around them."

The scholarships are valued at $20,000 or $10,000 each, over four years, for study at a four-year college or university starting in the fall of 2007. Since the Toyota Community Scholars program began in 1997, TMS has awarded over $12 million in scholarships to 1,100 students across the U.S.

Cristina Costantini, a Toyota Community Scholar from Milwaukee, Wis., is a prime example of the dedication to community service exhibited by this year's class. As the founder of "Bikes for Sierra Leone," Costantini oversaw a volunteer network that collected and refurbished over 300 bicycles for school- age children and teachers of this impoverished, war-ravaged country in Africa. (Because many students and teachers live three to seven miles from the nearest school, transportation is a significant barrier to education in Sierra Leone.)

Costantini organized a drive to collect bikes, school supplies and medical supplies -- plus raised the $8,800 it took to ship the items to Sierra Leone. In addition to the bikes, 70 computers and crates of supplies were donated.

Consequently, Costantini, like many of the Scholars, found community service to be the roadmap to what she wants to do in the future. "I am considering a career in the field of Foreign Service, and I hope someday to be involved in humanitarian projects on a larger scale."

The Toyota Community Scholars program is administered by Educational Testing Services in Princeton, N.J. The 12 national winners ($20,000 each) and 88 regional winners ($10,000 each) were selected by a panel of college and university admissions officials from across the U.S.

The scholarship winners were guests of honor tonight at an awards banquet in Louisville that was attended by education, community, business and government leaders. Rory Kennedy, an award-winning documentary filmmaker, was the keynote speaker.

The two-and-a-half-day program included a tour of Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc., in Georgetown, which builds the Camry, Camry hybrid, Avalon and Solara vehicles. In addition, the Scholars cruised the Ohio River on the Belle of Louisville (a historic paddle wheeler), and participated in a "ride and drive" that put them behind the wheel of four Toyota vehicles: FJ Cruiser, Yaris, RAV4 and Camry.

Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A., Inc. is the marketing, sales, distribution and customer service arm of Toyota, Lexus and Scion in the United States, marketing products and services through a network of 1,427 Toyota, Lexus and Scion dealers in 49 states. Established in 1957, TMS and its subsidiaries also are involved in distribution logistics, motorsports, and research and development.

Link to Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. :: Toyota Awards $1.12 Million in Scholarships to 100 High School Seniors