South Jordan employee receives $25,000 scholarship from fast food chain
Jun 05, 2017 11:40AM ● Published by Tori LaRue
Ezra Pugliano smiles while holding the giant $25,000 scholarship check Chick-fil-A granted him on May 10. The sophomore financial advising major at Utah Valley University was selected as a scholarship recipient out of thousands of applicants. (Tori La Rue/City Journals)
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On May 10, one Herriman High graduate was surprised to bring home a $25,000 check from the fast food chain he’d been working at for the past four years.
Representatives from corporate Chick-fil-A and South Jordan store owner Becky Pickle surprised 20-year-old Ezra Pugliano with the giant scholarship check at the Chick-fil-A in The District shopping center. Out of 4,200 applicants, Pugliano was one of 12 student workers in the nation who was selected for the company’s True Inspiration service scholarship. Twenty-one other South Jordan Chick-fil-A employees were given $2,500 scholarships.
“I didn’t believe it,” Pugliano said. “I thought it was fake. I was thinking ‘Where’s the April Fools?’ or something like that, but I was just shocked. I couldn’t believe it because there are so many people better than me, but just to be able to get it was like seeing that what I am doing is paying off.”
The sophomore college student was selected because of his application, which detailed his service in Kansas as a religious missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, volunteer time at the Riverton Senior Center and connection with Chick-fil-A.
Pugliano grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, where Chick-fil-A is headquartered. As a child, he and his mom sold the company’s chicken biscuits at his elementary school, so by the time he was looking for a job as a 16-year-old in Herriman, Utah, he thought Chick-fil-A would do. Upon making good friends at the establishment—especially with Pickle—he stuck around.
When Pugliano headed to Utah State University after high school, he transferred to the Logan store, but he missed Pickle and his friends at the District restaurant, so he said he’d make the nearly 100-mile commute to the South Jordan Chick-fil-A each weekend just to work there.
Now Pugliano, a financial advising major, has transferred to UVU where he’ll be closer to home and to work. And while he plans to work full time at the South Jordan Chick-fil-A over the summer, he said he’s thrilled that he’s only need to work part time during the school year because of the scholarship.
“I’m still going to work, but being able to focus more on my education will be really awesome,” Pugliano said. “Basically (the scholarship) is also going to give me the opportunity to not have student loans and to not, not finish college for financial reasons and not stress about finances and money.”
Pickle said Pugliano is a deserving recipient of the scholarship. She found out Pugliano was selected while she was boarding a plane.
“I broke down crying because of the excitement I felt for him,” she said. “I think four different Delta employees asked me if I was alright, and I had to tell them they were happy tears. I was overjoyed.”
Pickle has seen Pugliano age from 16 to 20, and she said it’s amazing to see how he’s learned not to be afraid of hard work.
“He sees hard work as opportunity,” she said. “This scholarship was 100 percent earned.”
Following Pickle’s example, Pugliano said he’s planning to make a career out of Chick-fil-A. His goal is to own a franchise by the time he graduates in three years. To prepare for that next step, he was recently certified as a grand opener and will be flown out to new Chick-fil-A locations in the nation to train employees.
“That’s pretty much the goal for right now, so we’ll see where this all goes,” Pugliano said.