Darden Awards Next Course Scholarship to Children of Team Members

August 9, 2023

Darden Restaurants recently introduced a new scholarship program called the Next Course Scholarship to support team members’ families by helping their children achieve their educational goals. Funded by the Darden Foundation, 97 scholarships worth $3,000 each were awarded to the team members representing more than 80 restaurants across seven of Darden’s brands in 32 states.

Among those high-achieving recipients are Eros Lopez, and Ashton and Cameron Lebed. Eros’ father, Fernando, and Ashton and Cameron’s father, Scott, have been with Darden for more than 20 years.

Eros is a senior at Hollywood High School in Los Angeles, California, and an Olive Garden team member. Eros joined Olive Garden in Burbank as a Busser last year to help save money for college, and now works alongside his father, Fernando, whose Olive Garden career spans 20-plus years. Fernando started as a Host, working his way up to Server and is now a To-Go Specialist.

When Eros expressed his desire to save up for college, Fernando began researching scholarship opportunities. Not too long after, the Next Course Scholarship was announced to team members.

“The Next Course Scholarship announcement was absolute perfect timing,” Fernando says. “Eros has been saving up for a while and this is just the support he needs as he approaches his freshman year.”

Eros plans to attend East Los Angeles College this summer to begin his degree in health care with a minor in his passion — music.

Scott began his career with Olive Garden 24 years ago and now serves as the General Manager in Queensbury. His sons, Ashton and Cameron, are both recipients of the Next Course Scholarship.

With both sons in college, and his daughter Madeline quickly approaching, Scott says having support to ease the burden of educational expenses is invaluable.

“I am grateful for the financial relief Next Course Scholarship has provided my family,” Scott says. “This opportunity is helping alleviate the financial stress, and allowing my sons to focus on achieving their goals.”

During high school, Ashton and Cameron were actively involved in student council, varsity sports, the National Society of High School Scholars and Best Buddies International. They excelled academically, graduating at the top of their classes. Their dedication and accomplishments have continued through college.

Ashton currently studies sports management at the University of South Carolina and is looking forward to pursuing a master’s in business administration in the future. Cameron studies biomedical engineering at University of Massachusetts Amherst and is on track to graduate as an Army Officer. 

Programs like Next Course Scholarship allows Darden to extend its investments beyond their people and create a lasting impact on the lives of team members’ families.