Each student also received an offer for a paid internship at Amazon after their first year in college, plus a Prime Student membership, Fire HD 8 tablet and $100 textbook credit

By Joelle Goldstein
June 25, 2020 11:58 AM

Amazon's Future Engineer Program has awarded 100 high school students across the country who intend to study computer science in college with $40,000 scholarships.

Jeff Wilke, the CEO of Amazon Worldwide Consumer, made the announcement in a blog post on Wednesday, noting that the "deserving" group of students who had been selected for the childhood-to-career program, which provides access to computer science education, hailed from 30 different states.

In addition to the scholarship, Wilke said the students were also offered a paid internship at Amazon after their first year in college, along with a Prime Student membership, Fire HD 8 tablet, and $100 credit to use for college textbooks.

"Amazon Future Engineer is committed to supporting students from underserved and underrepresented communities," the CEO said in a press release. "Each year, Amazon Future Engineer aims to inspire hundreds of thousands of young to explore computer science and is excited to support students looking to pursue careers in the fast-growing field of computer science and coding."

Adds Miranda Lewis, Amazon Future Engineer's Senior Program Manager, in a statement to PEOPLE: "It's been amazing for me to get to know these awesome students. They are smart, inquisitive, hardworking, and focused, and with so much going on around the world right now, it’s given me tremendous hope that these students are going to propel our world forward with innovative, progressive ideas, and a ton of heart."

The students were selected based on a variety of criteria, including academic achievement, demonstrated leadership, participation in school and community activities, work experience, future goals, and financial need, Wilke explained.

This year's program is historic in that more than 50 percent of the award recipients identify as female and one person is from Puerto Rico — the first time that a scholarship recipient hails from a U.S. territory. It's also the second-ever class of students to receive the Amazon Future Engineer award, according to Wilke.

Citing projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the CEO noted that the program comes at an important time where 1.4 million computer-science-related jobs are available in the workforce, yet only 400,000 computer science graduates with the required skills apply for those jobs.

Despite computer science being the "fastest-growing profession within the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) field," Wilke said only 8 percent of STEM graduates earn a computer science degree.

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With those statistics in mind, Wilke said he hopes the award will encourage more students to pursue computer science and coding.

"I am filled with hope after speaking with a few of these students, as they prepare themselves to tackle the challenges of the future," Wilke shared on the blog. "These scholarships represent Amazon’s belief in each of these students."

To make the award even more special, recipients were later surprised with a personal video chat from stars, including Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky, Seattle Seahawk player Emmanuel Ellerbee, country singer Carly Pearce, and country duo Maddie and Tae.

Each celebrity not only congratulated the students, but also provided advice and encouragement for their college careers and life beyond.