Marcus Ake

Marcus Ake

A first-generation college student from Belton is one of 20 finalists participating in the 11th annual Dr Pepper Tuition Giveaway, the soda company announced this week.

Marcus Ake — a 2019 Belton High School graduate who attends the University of Oklahoma — will try to win $100,000 in tuition during the Big Ten Football Championship Game Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The Ohio State Buckeyes and the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Badgers will face off.

“The Dr Pepper scholarship would mean instead of working 20 hours per week, I can focus on continuing my education and expanding my research,” Ake said in his submission video for how he would use the money if he won the giveaway. “The scholarship would prove to myself, my family and my community that this first-generation college student has got what it takes to follow his dreams.”

The 20 finalists — all of whom submitted videos for the scholarship giveaway — will attempt to throw the most number of footballs into an oversized Dr Pepper can. They have 30 seconds to do that.

The winner will get $100,000, with the runner up receiving $25,000.

“Dr Pepper and college football go hand-in-hand, and the Dr Pepper Tuition Giveaway not only demonstrates our commitment to the sport, but it is also our way of giving back to the fans by enabling them to make their academic goals a reality,” Dr Pepper Brand Marketing Vice President Derek Dabrowski said in a news release.

Ake, who was salutatorian of his class, studies meteorology at OU. Severe weather has been Ake’s passion since a near brush with a tornado when he was in kindergarten.

“We were all sitting on the couch, and the lights in our house flickered,” Ake told the Telegram in the spring. “There wasn’t a thunderstorm, it was kind of just a cloudy day. We turned on the TV to a news station, and they showed a tornado going through a park in my neighborhood.”

The Belton High alumnus’s dream — and reason for pursuing meteorology — is tied to that incident.

“My dream is to increase storm warning times and to better determine where their effects will be felt,” Ake said. “I also want to increase communication services to demographic groups who may be limited by language barriers or lack of access to internet. By ensuring better accessibility to life-saving weather information, I believe I can make my mark on the world and help save lives.”

Three other college students will attempt to throw the most number of footballs at the Buckeyes-Badgers game. The remaining 16 finalists will try to win the tuition money during four other football championship games.

Dr Pepper estimates it will award $1 million in tuition this year.

“This is an incredible group of finalists, all of whom have big plans to make a difference with the money they are trying to win,” Dabrowski said. “We are proud to be a part of their journey, and we can’t wait to see them take the field this weekend.”

Visit to watch Ake’s video submission to the Dr Pepper Tuition Giveaway.