In the last few years, Best Buy built after-school teen tech centers in the Twin Cities and around the country, where students from underserved communities can dabble in coding, filmmaking, and music production.
Now the Richfield-based electronics retailer wants to make sure those students who want to pursue a technology-related career can afford college.
Best Buy has launched a $2.5 million endowed scholarship at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management to help fund four years of college for up to 10 students a year, starting next fall. It's one of the company's largest gifts in higher education.
The scholarship is targeted to students who have gone through one of Best Buy's teen tech center programs. It will also be open to other first-generation students and those from underrepresented communities who have participated in Best Buy's other educational outreach programs.
"The goal of our teen tech centers is that students are graduating with a clear plan," said Andrea Wood, head of social impact at Best Buy. "So if that clear plan includes postsecondary education, we want to make sure we're getting rid of the barriers to help them do that."
The amount of each scholarship will vary since the program is aimed at helping fill in the remaining financial gaps after students receive their initial aid packages from the university.
"Many times students will be able to get financial aid, but they won't be able to get enough financial aid to truly meet their needs," she said. "So this scholarship will do that so they can afford food, housing, books and potential travel they might need to do in the program."
During their four years of college, scholarship recipients will be set up with Best Buy mentors and offered summer internships at the company's corporate campus. "Hopefully, when they graduate, they will want to come work for us because they're great students and we need them to be successful as a business," Wood said.
Best Buy has 31 teen tech centers around the country, with the goal of opening 60 by the end of 2020 across the U.S., Canada and Mexico. It now has five such centers in the Twin Cities, with plans to double that number to 10 by next year with a few new centers slated for north Minneapolis.
Its first such after-school program opened at the Minneapolis Central Library in 2013. It was followed in recent years by centers at the Brian Coyle Community Center in Minneapolis, Keystone Community Center in St. Paul, Hope Community Center in Minneapolis, and the St. Paul Downtown YMCA. Its sixth center in the Twin Cities is opening Nov. 8 at Comunidades Latinas Unidas En Servicio (CLUES) in St. Paul.
Each center serves about 250 to 300 teens a year. They are run by paid employees and volunteers, including Best Buy employees.
The after-school programs are aimed at helping prepare young people for a future that will require more tech skills.
This is the first scholarship program Best Buy has launched tied to teen tech centers. Wood said the company will look to add another in coming years.