Annual drive to promote grocery careers rewards 22 students continuing their education
Washington D.C. – As part of its ongoing effort to promote careers in the grocery industry, the NGA Foundation, the 501(c)3 nonprofit arm of the National Grocers Association, has announced the recipients of its 2023 scholarship program. This year, 22 students planning careers in independent grocery received scholarships, provided by the generosity of Foundation donors and affiliate groups.
“We are impressed by the dedication of these students to the food industry. The career plans many of them shared with us are truly inspiring and make our industry’s future seem even more hopeful,” said Chelsea Matzen, vice president, NGA Foundation. “Kudos as well to our members for their ongoing support and continued investment in grocery’s next generation of leaders.”
At the core of the NGA Foundation grants are the Asparagus Club scholarships. Since its inception in 1967, the Asparagus Club Scholarship Fund has awarded more than $1 million to students pursuing careers in the independent grocery industry.
Legacy scholarships are given in the name of an individual or individuals who contribute directly to the fund each year. These scholarships are designed to acknowledge and continue the legacy of those individuals and organizations and their contribution to the independent grocery industry.
Students may apply for scholarships starting each January until the deadline in April. Scholarships are awarded to enrolled college and post graduate students with a minimum 2.5 GPA and plans to pursue a career in the independent grocery industry. NGA Foundation scholarships are merit based, although financial need is taken into consideration.
Scholarships are managed by the NGA Foundation and selected by independent committees of reviewers. Winners were notified in July. Those interested in having NGA Foundation manage a scholarship in their name to support the next generation should reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The recipients of the NGA Foundation 2023 scholarships are as follows:
Asparagus Club ($2,000)
Ann Marie Arment
Arment is grateful for this scholarship that will allow her to increase her coursework toward a master’s degree in food marketing at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. “I am eager to continue my career in retail grocery by utilizing my education to transition into marketing,” said Arment, who works as a deli department manager for the Weavers Way Food Cooperative. “I make best efforts to build and maintain relationships with other professionals in the grocery industry and to learn from these colleagues’ experiences.”
The senior director of human resources and recruiting for Gelson’s Markets in Southern California, Ash is pursuing leadership studies at Cal Poly at Humboldt. “As a working wife and mother, pursuing my personal goals is not always the first item on the to-do list, but with the help of this scholarship, I am able to continue chasing my dreams,” she said. “This scholarship is a huge part of my career path towards executive leadership. I am a champion of continuing education and being able to model this for our employees provides a real-life example of being able to achieve anything you put your mind to. My goal is to be a c-suite executive so that I can affect change for women and people of color throughout the industry.”
Carlson works as a closing manager for Fareway while attending the University of South Dakota. “I am very grateful to be a recipient because this will make attending university more affordable for me,” she said. “Winning this scholarship will greatly further my career.” Carlson manages the social media platforms for her store, which she said “has been helpful in understanding what our customers are looking for the most. I can’t wait to learn more about how to engage an audience.”
Annaleise Nicole Vochatzer
Pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business management as an online student of Liberty University, Vochatzer plans to operate a supermarket in the Kansas City area. This first-generation college student is grateful for the boost this scholarship is offering toward her goal. “I am truly thankful for the opportunity to pursue my goals, dreams and ambitions. Without the NGAF scholarship, I would not be able to choose a career that I am passionate about,” she said. Vochatzer is working her way through school as a shift manager at a Culver’s restaurant, where she’s learning operational management lessons applicable to grocery.
A student at the University of Tulsa, Wood started at Jumbo Foods as a checker in 2019 and is now an assistant manager. “Winning this scholarship means all my hard work has paid off,” she said. “I have learned so much and gained so much more than I would have ever thought possible. I have found my passion for business and will forever be grateful.” Wood worked as an online shopper during the pandemic and has experience in dairy, deli, frozen and floral. She planned to intern for company executives this summer, “so I can learn even more about the operation of our corporate office as well as managing all the store locations.”
Asparagus Club – Thomas K. Zaucha Award ($2,500)
Johnson works as a night manager at a Harps supermarket while pursuing a degree in logistics and supply chain management at the University of Central Arkansas. “Being able to show the hard work I have done over the last few years and getting rewarded for it and my interest in the grocery world is a great feeling,” she said. “It will help me get to the finish line of my degree, which gives me the ability to go into the grocery field confident in the knowledge I have gained over my years in college.” Johnson, who started with Harps at age 16 as a cashier, is a recent recipient of the Harps L.E.A.P program, a college tuition assistance program.
Bob Richardson Legacy Scholarship ($1,000)
West is working as a cashier at Yoke’s Fresh Market while studying marketing and managing at Whitworth University in Spokane, Wash. She’s grateful that the scholarship will allow her to focus more on her studies in the coming year. “I would like to advance in the grocery industry,” she said. “I started out as a courtesy clerk and moved up to a cashier. Eventually I would like to become a manager so that I have more responsibilities.”
Charlie and Becky Bray Legacy Scholarship ($2,500)
“It is absolutely an honor to be selected for this scholarship and I know that it wouldn’t have been possible had I not been inspired to pursue this industry from learning all about the grocery business from my grandpa over the years,” said Sickles, a first-generation college student at Stevenson University in Owings Mills, Md. She is pursuing further grocery work after leaving a stint as cashier and stocker to focus on academics. “It is my belief that you cannot be a leader in this industry without knowing what it is like to be a regular employee. which is why I have been trying to build my experience as much as I can,” Sickles said.
Della Noce Family Diversity Scholarship ($1,500)
Carroll is working as a deli cashier while attending Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. “I was inspired to pursue a degree in food marketing because I loved my job at a local deli/caterer, which I started in high school,” she said. “Winning this scholarship helps increase my self-confidence and demonstrates that I have chosen an industry in which I can work hard and succeed.” Beyond work and classes, Carroll is studying abroad in Rome and will be interning with food importer Atalanta Corp. “I expect to contribute to the organization and learn as much as I can,” she said.
Ecolab Women in Grocery ($2,000)
“This scholarship inspires me to begin revolutionizing our grocery industry,” said Yengera, student at Cornell University. “This opportunity encourages me to strive for justice through political advocacy.” Yengera is working with a student-run initiative that partners with sustainable suppliers to provide affordable, nutritious food, and leads educational events on how to improve food systems. She is a founding member of the Outreach Ambassadors Program of local nonprofit Harbor Dish, through which she networks with the local community to recruit donors and volunteers, and has led fundraising events to fight food waste and insecurity.
FMS Solutions Holdings Legacy Scholarships
Thomas Chulwoo Kim ($1,500)
Kim is working as a economist for the Bureau of Labor Statistics while pursuing an MBA at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. “With the help of NGA’s scholarship, and I can focus intensely on my education while staying in the public sector,” said Kim, who’s planning on a career in the grocery industry. “An MBA program includes opportunities for hands-on experiences [that will] allow me to apply the knowledge and skills gained in the classroom to real-world situations, further developing my expertise. … I am confident that I can achieve my goals and make a meaningful contribution to the grocery industry.”
Lorelei Jackson ($3,000)
“Winning this scholarship is such a huge honor, said Jackson, who’s working as a checker and personal shopper at H-E-B while studying at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio. “It allows me to become more involved in my community and gain different kinds of experiences while I complete college and learn more about the industry. … Good leadership produces employees that are well engaged, resulting in a high level of customer satisfaction.”
Kayla Reinbolt ($1,500)
“This scholarship is an investment into my career,” said Reinbolt, a student at the University of Findlay in Ohio. “I can be a part of a larger mission that goes beyond every job opportunity, and build lasting connections that makes a difference in others’ lives, including my own.” Working as a marketing intern for a winery, Reinbolt is pursuing a future that engages the business-consumer relationship. “The grocery industry is much more complex than what meets the eye to a consumer when they walk through the door.”
Kimberly Clark Legacy Scholarship ($2,500)
Mineart is working in various positions for grocery retailer Fareway while pursuing a graphic technology degree at the University of Northern Iowa. “Winning this scholarship will allow me to obtain the education that I want, which will empower me to secure a fulfilling and rewarding career,” he said. Mineart started with Fareway at age 14, made cashier before age 16 and has worked in produce and online ordering. “Of everything that I’ve learned during my time in this store, the most relevant is how to be a hard worker and that hard work will pay off in the end,” said Mineart, who aims to work in Fareway’s marketing department after college.
Mary Macey Legacy Scholarship ($1,500)
“This scholarship will allow me to focus on my studies and gain the necessary knowledge to excel in the business world,” said Stone, who’s pursuing a degree in supply chain management and logistics at Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, La. “It will also give me the opportunity to network with professionals and build relationships that will be beneficial throughout my career.” Serving as a member and officer in professional organizations has further given Stone leadership, communication and networking opportunities as she works toward a career in the grocery industry.
Mondelēz International Legacy Scholarship ($2,500)
“As a finance major, this scholarship allows me to gain insight into ways organizations can contribute to make each individual’s life a little easier,” said Viznovych, who is working as a front-end services host at Walmart while studying at the College of New Jersey in Ewing, N.J. “I am building my experiences to be able to help the grocery industry. … By learning how large chain grocers operate, I am able to consider practices that community-centered grocers can implement.”
Peter and Jody Larkin Legacy Scholarship ($2,500)
Oforiwaa Pee Agyei-Boakye
“This scholarship empowers me to pursue my educational aspirations with greater focus and determination, knowing that I have the support and recognition of others,” said Agyei-Boakye, a student at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. “Additionally, it will provide me with the opportunity to explore different facets of the grocery industry, gaining insights into emerging trends, technologies and best practices. It grants me access to resources, experiences and networks that can enhance my educational journey.” Agyei-Boakye is working toward a Ph.D. in geography with a focus on food accessibility and transportation her research involves studying how households can access grocery stores for healthy food and how food is transported along the supply chain line of grocery stores.
Roger Collins Legacy Scholarship ($1,000)
A student at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, Tencza said winning this scholarship is “a testament to the opportunities and doors that can open through perseverance and a genuine passion for the food industry.” Tencza has worked as a sales intern for Red Bull and a beverage manager for a convenience store chain, and this summer has a sales management internships with PepsiCo. “Opportunities in both work and school have helped me with customer service, networking and communication skills needed for the grocery industry,” he said.
Ronnie Horton Legacy Scholarship ($1,250)
“Since I was young, I was always most fascinated walking down my local grocery aisles or through farmer’s markets. I have followed this passion through my undergraduate education, my early career and now in my master’s degree,” said Diaz, a student at Stanford University. “I am determined to better grocery experiences for consumers around the world by helping food brands become more accessible to the diverse population.” Diaz works as an associate category manager for freezer and pet at FreshDirect, where she has learned to use data to better understand brand growth. “Working with small brands has played an important role in helping me identify the skills needed to fulfill my goal of uplifting diverse and mission-driven brands in the retail space.”
Winning this scholarship “will boost my confidence, motivate me and provide opportunities to gain valuable knowledge and experiences in marketing,” said Shafer, who’s working as a cashier for Fareway while attending Northwest Missouri State University. “It will help shape my future and open doors to exciting career prospects.” Shafer is “constantly seeking opportunities to enhance my marketing skills through various activities, including my part-time job, volunteering and involvement in Girl Scouts. … I have started to learn more about the importance of product placement, pricing strategies and sales, which are all crucial components of effective marketing.”
“Winning this scholarship will impact my career by giving me more peace of mind when it comes to paying for my education so I can focus on my career itself,” said Yates, who works as a cashier for Niemann Foods’ County Market while studying business administration at Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield, Ill. With an eye toward becoming a store director or a corporate position, Yates is “taking the time to work in other departments of the store besides the front end to learn as much as I can.”
Women Grocers of America ($2,500)
“I’m especially honored to receive the WGA scholarship as women are significantly underrepresented in many industries, and … winning this scholarship further fuels my determination to aid small grocers and women in this industry, and finding better, healthier ways to do business within this industry,” said Baksh, who works as a tutor while studying at New York University. “The reasons I wanted to pursue a career in the grocery industry have always revolved around finding ways to help people in various communities, and receiving this scholarship will greatly assist me in beginning a career where I can better the grocery industry, especially during unprecedented events, such as inflation or shortages.”
About the Asparagus Club
The Asparagus Club was founded in 1909 as a group bound together by ties of friendship and mutual interest of cooperation and fellowship among members of the independent grocery industry. The name Asparagus Club was selected for the group to symbolize the concept that one single tip of asparagus standing alone would fall, but when tied together in a bunch could stand upright.
About the NGA Foundation
The NGA Foundation is the 501(c)3 nonprofit arm of the National Grocers Association. The Foundation provides independent retailers with tools to develop more effective recruiting programs, enhance retention efforts and bolster professional leadership development opportunities for employers.
The NGA Foundation seeks to position the grocery industry as an employer of choice for college students and is committed to supporting students planning careers with independent grocers. Since 1990, NGA and its affiliates have awarded more than $1 million in scholarships providing the critical resources needed to invest in our future leaders.
For more information, visit www.ngafoundation.org/scholarships
NGA is the national trade association representing the retail and wholesale community grocers that comprise the independent sector of the food distribution industry. An independent retailer is a privately owned or controlled food retail company operating a variety of formats. The independent grocery sector is accountable for about 1.2 percent of the nation’s overall economy and is responsible for generating more than $250 billion in sales, 1.1 million jobs, $39 billion in wages and $36 billion in taxes. NGA members include retail and wholesale grocers located in every congressional district across the country, as well as state grocers’ associations, manufacturers and service suppliers. For more information about NGA, visit www.nationalgrocers.org.