Stories about student college debt continue to make headlines. It doesn’t come as a surprise, then, that the competition for grants and other forms of aid has increased dramatically. Hence, when Todd Siwak, ceo of Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.-based Ferrara Candy Co. shared his vision about helping “improve the lives of employees” with Mike Goldwasser, the company’s chief human resources officer, the idea of providing scholarships surfaced soon afterwards.
Today, the company announced it has awarded 10 $5,000 scholarships to students of employees for the upcoming school year. To celebrate the students’ accomplishments, Ferrara invited the recipients and their families to Pinstripes in Oak Brook, Ill., for a ceremonial brunch.
“The scholarship program demonstrates Ferrara’s commitment to investing in the future success of its employees’ children by providing opportunity for personal advancement that may not otherwise be available,” Goldwasser said. “Being able to spend time with, and celebrate, our first recipients was a terrific experience. With the rising cost of secondary education and the increased competition for grants and other forms of aid, we’re proud to create a program that supports the decision to pursue college specifically for Ferrara employees and their families.” 
The recipients, which come from Chicagoland and Creston, Iowa, filled out an application form and answered an essay question. Twenty-four applications were received, and the judging was conducted by Scholarship America.
Any employee below vice president level who has a student applying for or enrolled in a two- or four-year college was eligible to apply for the scholarship. Applicants had to respond to the following essay question: Our vison is to share goodness with every bite. How do you share goodness in your daily life?
Goldwasser said that it took about a year to organize the scholarship program with the help of Scholarship America.
“They even advised us as to the amount, pointing out that larger amounts may affect students’ financial aid packages,” he said.
Employees were informed of the new scholarship initiative at the company’s annual Sweet Event meeting in January this year. In addition, Ferrara announced a new parental leave policy, which dovetailed with Siwak’s goal of improving employees’ lives.
The new parental leave policy provides supplement compensation to employees taking disability leave whenever a child is born. As a result, the company will contribute an additional 40 percent to the existing 60 percent of pay that disability leave provides for employees during the 12-week period.
In addition, parents will receive an additional two paid weeks off upon the birth of the child. To facilitate re-entry into the work force, parents will also be eligible to work a reduced schedule for the first two weeks.
The Ferrara Scholarship USA recipients are:
Carolina Melgoza
Morton West High School, Berwyn
Triton College
Ferrara Employee Facility:  Bellwood
Julia Conversa
York Community High School, Elmhurst
Purdue University 
Ferrara Employee Facility: Forest Park
Esmeralda Navarez
Hubbard High School, Chicago
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 
Ferrara Employee Facility: Forest Park
Giselle Garcia
J. Sterling Morton East High School, Cicero
Morton College
Ferrara Employee Facility: Forest Park
Isabel Najera
Proviso West, Hillside 
North Central College
Ferrara Employee Facility: Bellwood
Erin Jacobsen
Batavia High School, Batavia
LIM College
Ferrara Employee Facility: Bellwood
John Stankovich
Oak Park River Forest High School
University of Notre Dame
Ferrara Employee Facility: Oakbrook Terrace
Madison Kasbaum 
Lincoln-Way East, Frankfort 
Florida Gulf Coast University
Ferrara Employee Facility: Oakbrook Terrace
Nathalie Tovar
Institute of Health Science Career Academy
Chicago Concordia University Chicago
Ferrara Employee Facility: Bolingbrook 
Colton Bolinger
Creston High School, Creston
Grand View University
Ferrara Employee Facility: Creston