When Fresno City College student Carlos Corona walked into a room of the Old Administration Building, Tuesday morning, he was in for a big surprise.
"I thought I was here for a scholarship interview with the Board of Trustees," he said.
Turns out they were joined by representatives from Pacific Gas and Electric who surprised Corona with the utility's Bright Minds Scholarship, an award of $30,000 dollars a year for up to five years or until he earns his bachelor's degree - whichever comes first.
"There's a lot of scholarship programs out there so when Bright Minds was designed, it was designed not to just look at their academic achievement, but the obstacles they've overcome to get to where they are," said PG&E Spokesperson Denny Boyles.
Boyles said Corona was an obvious choice among the more than 7,000 students statewide who applied, because of his desire to give back to the community.
"I'm the first to attend college in my family," said Corona. "I'm the first male in my whole entire family to graduate high school; the first male to serve in the military; I'm the first of many things. I'm definitely the first to get a $30,000 dollar scholarship."
The Fowler High School grad and Army veteran served two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and provided convoy operations to troops in need of security. When he returned to the Valley, it was during a down economy so his wife encouraged him to go back to school to pursue a Bachelor's Degree.
While enrolled at Fresno City College, Corona helped establish the Veterans Association, providing support to soldiers returning from overseas. Now, it serves more than 700 veterans seeking job training in a particular field or guidance in earning a specific degree.
"He just recently did a program called 'Book Camp' where he initiated this process of students donating their text books," said Executive Director for the State Center Community College Foundation Gurdeep He'Bert. "As veterans start to enroll they don't have to worry about purchasing their books because they don't get their benefits right away."
Corona plans to attend Fresno State as a Criminology Major with a secondary focus in English Literature and says he'll put the money to good use.
"To me it's important to go to school and set that example for my family and other youth and I hope I can do that," said Corona.
Corona said his original goal was to get his Bachelor's Degree, but now that he was selected as one of 10 recipients of the Bright Minds Scholarship, he now has a new opportunity to earn his Master's Degree. He said his dream is to one day return to Fresno City College to teach other students just like himself.