McDonald’s USA is kicking off its Black & Positively Golden Scholarship Program for the second year in a row by offering $500,000 in scholarships to incoming and current HBCU students in an effort to uplift the next generation of leaders.

This generous initiative — in partnership with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) — is McDonald’s way of strengthening its relationship with HBCUs and elevating Black communities by helping them pursue their dreams of earning a higher education.

“We are proud to continue our longstanding partnership with McDonald’s and work with these exceptional students,” said Dr. Harry L. Williams — President and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) — in a statement. “Amid the uncertainty and confusion of the current state of the world, students remain some of the key drivers of change. They are rising to the challenges they are facing and working hard to provide much-needed support to their families and communities. With the help of partners like McDonald’s, TMCF is committed to supporting these outstanding students and helping them develop into tomorrow’s industry leaders.”

The annual program is providing 34 scholarships total to students and up to $15,000 each will be awarded for the 2021-2022 academic year, a press release shares. Scholarship winners will be announced later this summer.

McDonald’s kicked off the Black & Positively Golden Scholarship Program last year as a way to help HBCU students continue their education and alleviate their financial burdens in the midst of COVID-19. As a result, 34 students received funding which helped them stay in school.

“The McDonald’s scholarship I received came at a critical time and allowed me to focus on academics and my career aspirations,” Olivia Harris — a 2020 Black & Positively Golden Scholarship recipient and junior at North Carolina Central University — shared in a statement. “The knowledge I’m gaining at my HBCU is preparing me for the real world, and it’s incredible to see others have this scholarship opportunity as they pursue their dreams.”

The start of the COVID-19 pandemic presented many challenges for students who were still tasked with navigating the remainder of their semesters virtually and off-campus.

As HBCUs and colleges across the nation continue to adapt to the effects of the pandemic, McDonald’s is stepping up to help provide funding and educational resources to make this a smoother process.

“As the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the ability of students to attend college, we are honored to provide support and financial resources to help HBCU students nationwide turn their dreams of going to and staying in college into reality,” Marty Gillis — New Jersey McDonald’s Franchisee and National Diversity Marketing Committee Lead — said in a statement. “We are committed to feeding and fostering the communities we serve, and seeing young, gifted and Black students succeed, and couldn’t be prouder to partner with the TMCF for more than 20 years to do so.”

For more information about the TMCF & Black & Positively Golden Scholarship Program, click here.