Icon of a figure working on a laptop

Enrolled in school again

Kendall took one class at Harold Washington and got an 'A.

Icon of a person reading a book

Transferred to Wright

Began studying mechanical engineering


Received financial help

Earned the PepsiCo Foundation S.M.I.L.E. Scholarship

In 2020, Kendall Ricks decided to take advantage of some extra time in his schedule. The Wright College student says that led to a chain of events he never expected.

Due to the pandemic, Kendall began working from home. He had been thinking about going back to school for engineering for a while, and a new work from home schedule, spare time, and a shift to online classes allowed Kendall to enroll in school again. His first class back was chemistry at Harold Washington College. He got an “A.”

When Kendall realized he could manage being a part-time student and a full-time employee, he continued taking one class at a time. Eventually, Kendall realized it would take him a long time to complete school if he kept taking one class at a time, and he wanted to transfer to a four-year institution after completing his courses at City Colleges. He decided to leave his job and become a full-time engineering student.

Around this time, Kendall began applying to four-year colleges and universities to prepare to transfer. When submitting his application to Illinois Institute of Technology, he learned that City Colleges students were offered guaranteed admission and scholarships. He contacted the Dean of the Center of Excellence for Engineering and Computer Science at Wright, Dr. Doris Espiritu, and the two created a plan for Kendall to finish the remainder of his classes at Wright and then transfer to Illinois Tech.

“I was ecstatic when I found out about Wright’s guaranteed admissions partnership with Illinois Tech because financial aid was a really big concern of mine,” said Kendall. “I didn’t know how I was going to pay for school. Knowing I had that option to go to Illinois Tech and receive the financial aid to pay for it really excited me.”

Kendall was also searching for additional ways to finance his education. He learned that, because he already had a bachelor’s degree, receiving additional federal aid to pay for school might be a challenge. So, he began applying for any scholarship he was eligible for. One of those scholarships was the PepsiCo Foundation S.M.I.L.E. Scholarship. Months after applying, Kendall learned he was officially a PepsiCo Foundation S.M.I.L.E. Scholarship recipient.

“I was speechless for the day,” he said. “I went from being willing to take out loans to complete my education, to getting financial aid from a scholarship and the Illinois Tech program. I also found out I had access to all the resources that PepsiCo gives. It seemed so perfect that it almost seemed unreal.”

Kendall is now one semester away from completing the mechanical engineering program at Wright and transferring to Illinois Tech. He’s searching for internships, networking with engineers, deciding what kind of mechanical engineering he wants to focus on, and learning skills to become a better engineer.

He’s extremely grateful for everything that happened to him this year and for connecting with Associate Dean of the Center of Excellence for Engineering and Computer Science at Wright, Bridget O’Connell, Engineering Coordinator Dr. Ruzica Todorovic, and Dr. Espiritu.

“Dr. Espiritu has been phenomenal with all of this,” Kendall said. “She’s an inspiration to me. With all her credentials, she chooses to help other students get to a level that she’s already been at.”

With her support and the financial assistance he’s been awarded, Kendall says he’s able to continue his goal of becoming a better engineer.