Texas A & M University marketing major LeAnn Percivill was named the top recipient of the 2020 NRF Foundation Next Generation Scholarship and earned a $25,000 tuition scholarship – funds that are helping her graduate this spring without student debt.
“I never knew if I’d even be able to afford to go to college, but I took a chance and I went to school,” says Percivill, a first-generation college student who learned she was the top recipient on stage at the NRF Foundation Honors on Jan. 12 in New York City. “And then I took a chance on this scholarship and I applied, and I never thought this would happen.”
The competition for the NRF Foundation’s most prestigious scholarship included an essay on retail’s impact on the global economy, a case study for Hill City (a Gap Inc. brand) and interviews with industry leaders.
“I’ve met so many incredible people, and they’ve really invested into me,” Percivill says. “This is such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Her path to a career in retail is deeply personal.
“When I was young, we often went to food pantries, and as I grew up and I got interested in retail, I realized that it was retailers that were donating that food,” Percivill says. “All of these experiences helped solidify that retail is where I want to be. You get to really make a difference in retail. I don’t think a lot of other industries can say that.”
In June, Percivill will start full-time with H-E-B as an assistant buyer for general merchandise. She interned at the Texas supermarket chain’s corporate headquarters last summer.
“I was terrified to go to college and take a chance of accumulating mounds of debt in hopes that I could pay it off someday with a career I’d be proud of,” Percivill says in a Texas A & M news release. “I now find myself with an incredible job waiting for me post-graduation – and no student debt. No dream is ever too big. I am a testament to that.”
The 2020 Next Generation Scholarship drew applicants from a variety of majors studying at universities across the country. In addition to the top award of $25,000, four other finalists were awarded $10,000 scholarships. The top 25 semifinalists received stipends to cover registration and travel expenses to attend the NRF Foundation Student Program in New York City.
Since the Next Generation Scholarship launched, more than $800,000 in tuition scholarships have been awarded to students with retail experience, leadership skills and a desire to make an impact.
Applications for the 2021 Next Generation Scholarship are open now to undergraduates of all majors at NRF University Member Schools who will be juniors or seniors at the time the scholarship is awarded in January 2021. The deadline to apply is May 15 at 11:59 p.m. EST.