Radio legend Angie Martinez has been around long enough to know what it takes to have a successful career in the creative arts industry. Passion and tenacity are definitely two key aspects to make it, but for her, she says it all about the opportunity.

“I don’t know where I’d be if it wasn’t for my early internship days,” she says referring to her time as an intern at Miami’s Power 96 radio station. While there, she said truly honed her craft and further lit the spark that eventually blazed a trail in radio.

It was recently announced that Martinez and recording artist Fat Joe is joining forces with Pepsi’s Stronger Together Initiative in partnership with Gamesa Cookies, to raise awareness of their creative arts scholarship program.

The program aims to support underserved high school youth by providing one of four $25,000 scholarships towards an education in music and arts.

Following the NYC kick-off, Pepsi Stronger Together and Gamesa will take the tour nationally, stopping in Los Angeles, and Houston, with help from Texas rapper and scene icon Bun B, before ending in Miami.

“Pepsi Stronger Together’s $100,000 music and arts scholarship program is another example of how we’re reaching the community in our path to make a difference across people, business, and community with PepsiCo’s Racial Equality Journey, which was introduced to elevate diverse voices and help eliminate racial barriers for Black and Hispanic Americans,” said PepsiCo’s Derek Lewis, President of the Multicultural Business and Equity Development.

“In the past year, we’ve continued to expand PepsiCo’s commitment to educational access, from our Uplift Community College Scholarship program which helped fund nearly 1,800 scholarships across 20 cities to our S.M.I.L.E. (Success Matters in Life and Education) initiative which provided mentorship and guidance grants to support students making the jump to 4-year college or university. We’ve seen the impact that these programs can have in not just driving opportunities now but setting up students with the tools they need to succeed in the future. This latest scholarship is part of our continued commitment and ongoing work to help drive change across communities and make a positive impact on our world.”

The program was officially announced on June 12 during New York City’s Puerto Rican Day Parade, where Martinez and Fat Joe acted as the official god parents.

“This is really special to me,” she shared with Essence. “First of all, I’ve been going to the parade since I was seven— and even in adult life I’ve attended every single year. The one year that I missed it was because I was giving birth to my son.”

She shared that this is an especially unique year for the parade since it’s making a return for the first time in two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s really good to be back outside giving kids an opportunity and funding and doing it with Joe, my brother. We started our careers around the same time. So it’s a real kind of really cool full circle moment.”

Martinez says the partnership with Pepsi’s Stronger Together comes at a time when students need it the most.

“Being in arts programs can be expensive, especially now, if you don’t have the proper support,” she points out. Martinez has a point.

K-12 Dive reported that a 2021 analysis of Chicago Public Schools (CPS), found a 97% increase in regular access to arts education over seven years as of the 2018-19 school year. Despite this, 35% of students, predominantly those who are Black and also underserved, remain “without consistent access to high-quality arts education,” per the findings.

K-12 Dive also highlighted that the number of minutes elementary school students had of arts instruction also dropped from 70% in 2017-18 to 68% for 2018-19. This drop was seen in CPS high schools as well, from 64% in 2017-18 to just 60% for 2018-19. “Furthermore, 81% of schools reported they had a dedicated arts budget for students for the 2018-19 school year — a significant drop from the 89% for the 2017-18 school year.” Unfortunately, this issue can be seen in schools all across the nation.

“It’s hard, man,” Martinez begins, adding that school programs are an added cost to parents’ already mounting expenses as a recession looms.

Despite the challenge, Martinez says the creatives out there should never stop doing what they love because it will all pay off in the end.

“I sympathize with those concerned about entering into the arts because they’re scared they won’t be able to take care of themselves, because when you’re young, you have so many fears,” she said. ” ‘Am I going to be okay’? ‘Am I going to make enough money’? But I also subscribe to the belief that we only live once. This is it. You don’t get a redo. So lean into your gift. we need it.”