Last month, Emma DeMuth, one of Taco Bell Foundation’s Live Más Scholarship winners, and aspiring photographer and filmmaker, took to the stage at the Social Good Summit, an annual two-day conference exploring the impact of technology and new media on social good initiatives around the world. Dressed to impress, her talking points memorized, 18-year-old Emma DeMuth commanded a stage alongside global leaders and visionaries, creating her own “ah-ha” moment that left the audience wondering – what if we redefined how scholarships are awarded? What if we recognized passion and creativity the same way we do academics and athleticism?
We sat down with Emma afterwards to talk about the experience, all things Live Más Scholarship and her advice on the relentless pursuit of your passions.
TB: When did you first learn about the Live Más Scholarship and what made you want to apply?
E: I’ve always wanted to stay busy by creating things, because I love surprising people through photography and film. I first learned about the Taco Bell Live Más Scholarship when I saw a commercial for it during the college football championships. The scholarship appealed to me because you just had to make a two minute video about your passion. No recommendations, essays or GPA were necessary. I knew I had a dream and I was determined to live it, so I applied.
TB: You recently had the opportunity to represent the Taco Bell Foundation on stage at the 2016 Social Good Summit. What did you focus your presentation on?
E: In my presentation, I shared why today’s youth need to be advocated for and supported, even if our paths may be considered unconventional or nontraditional, like mine is. We need leaders and our education system to redefine how scholarships are awarded in order to recognize passion and drive – no matter what it is you’re passionate or driven about.
TB: So, what was it like standing on the same stage as people like Joe Biden and Chelsea Handler?
E: Manny, a fellow Live Más Scholarship winner, and I were some of the youngest presenters and attendees at the Summit, so it was definitely a little intimidating. At one point, I looked over and two members of the Refugee Olympic Team were hanging out next to me. Pretty surreal. But not only did I feel completely welcome, I felt respected and listened to, like people truly cared what I had to say.
TB: Did you get a lot of positive feedback after the presentation?
E: Totally! Tons of people came up to me afterwards to say that Manny and I were an inspiration and ask us questions about the Taco Bell Foundation. I met people that I could see myself keeping in touch with in the future – I might even meet one woman in New York City soon (where I’m attending New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts), because she wants me to do a docuseries about her life.
TB: What advice do you have for other young people that have the chance to tell people about their dreams?
E: When you get your chance to stand up and be heard, whether it’s in front of your debate class, previewing your latest YouTube video or on another stage like the Social Good Summit, make sure to soak it up and trust that what you have to say matters. It really is an incredible feeling to be surrounded by other people that want to change the world like you do. I love that I’m part of the Live Más Scholarship Charter Class that helped kick start the movement to recognize those of us that don’t fit into a standard box, and I hope that my path inspires others to take risks and believe in their passions, too.