CPS students, Pepsico employees collaborate in innovative 'reverse mentorship' program

A unique program has been launched, bringing together a select group of Chicago Public Schools students and Pepsico employees for an immersive experience.

As we roll into summer, a group of young people on the South and West sides are about to give new meaning to the phrase, "Pepsi Challenge." They've been selected by Pepsico for a unique summer internship where they won't just be learning, but they'll be teaching, too.

Pepsico has teamed up with several South and West side organizations to offer young people what they're calling a "reverse mentorship program" where they won't just learn how the iconic brand does business, but Pepsico employees will learn from the interns, as well — many of whom will have different social and racial identities than their own.

"Yes, the young professionals are going to learn a thing or two from those working at Pepsico," said Rafael Hurtado. "But most importantly, those at Pepsico are going to learn a thing or two from these kids from the South and West sides."


"Huge organizations like Pepsico on the South and West sides of the city [are] ready to step up," said Rose Drumgoole with Chicago Cares, who helped facilitate the partnerships. "But you can't be it if you can't see it. So giving these folks the opportunity to do this kind of program is amazing."

It's a six-week paid internship/mentorship program where the next "Pepsi Generation" will learn fields ranging from sales and marketing to operations, food service and retail.

Hurtado graduated from a similar program and, years later, found himself right back at Pepsico.

"It gave me my opportunity to start my career in government and policy, which helped me land different jobs, and years later return and join Pepsico's government affairs and corporate citizenship team."

This year's participants have already been selected and range in age from 16 to 24 years old.