27 Jun HONORING MY GRANDFATHER’S LEGACY THROUGH SCHOLARSHIPS
Jose “Pepe” Antonio Ortega left behind a legacy of love, integrity, determination and generosity. Born in Havana, Cuba in 1929, he moved to Puerto Rico before settling in Miami with his wife, Lucila, and children Maria Elena and Pepe Jr., in 1976.
Like many exiles in South Florida who left homes and successful businesses behind, Pepe championed the idea that “education is the one thing no one can ever take away from you.” Though he built landmark brands like FrigiKing in Cuba and Sazón Goya in Miami, to Pepe, the true markers of success were not found hanging in closets, parked in driveways or kept in bank accounts. Rather, they were found in graduating with honors, leading your team through a hard season or helping a friend who had nowhere to turn.
Pepe channeled his business success to promote these values beyond his immediate family. He recognized that what carried him through each chapter of reinvention was his education, and established The Ortega Foundation so that he could provide scholarships for the children of his employees at Sazón Goya and Goya Foods. After his death, Pepe’s family built on his support of education and expanded the reach of the scholarship program in partnership with The Miami Foundation.
Since 2015, the Ortega Foundation Scholarship Program has awarded more than $660,000 to 60+ high-achieving, college-bound seniors in Miami-Dade County; it awarded another $238,000 to 34 students this year. In addition to academics, the selection committee looks for the same qualities of hard work and perseverance in applicants that Pepe modeled throughout his life. One of the most special characteristics of the Ortega Foundation program is that, once selected, students are eligible to receive the award for each year that they are in college, as long as they show a continued commitment to their studies.
For the Ortega family, it is a joy to watch the scholarship recipients grow throughout their college years and into adulthood, knowing that the scholarship may have contributed in some way to their success. As my family makes way for a new generation of leaders, with the birth of a baby girl last May and a baby boy to come in August, we look to instill in these children the same passion, gratitude and service to others that were indispensable to Pepe.
Natalia Ortega is the granddaughter of Jose Antonio Ortega.
Applications for the Ortega Foundation Scholarship are due each April. You can find more information about the program here: miamifoundation.org/scholarships.
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