University of Nevada, Reno freshman Ivon Padilla-Rodriguez competed for and won a $100,000 scholarship during halftime of the 2011 SEC Championship Game between Georgia and LSU in Atlanta on Dec. 3.
Padilla-Rodriguez, a member of the University's Honors Program, submitted a video to DrPepper.com explaining why she deserved to win college tuition as part of the season-long Dr. Pepper Million Dollar Tuition Giveaway. She was chosen from thousands of submissions to compete, eventually being chosen as one of five finalists, and then one of the final two students to compete for first prize. Dr. Pepper few her to Atlanta to compete with a student, Katelyn from Alabama, in the Tuition Throw.
"I feel honored knowing that thousands of fans from across the country who have actually been drinking Dr. Pepper for years entered videos, and I was one of a few chosen to compete," she said. "I am so excited."
All five finalists were guaranteed at least $2,500, but only the two with the top scores from the preliminary event were able to compete for the $100,000 first prize and the $23,000 runner-up prize.
For both the preliminary event and the halftime event, finalists had 30 seconds to throw footballs through a 2-foot hole in an oversized Dr. Pepper can replica from 5 yards away. Padilla-Rodriguez made the second position in the preliminary round the day before the game with nine throws, while her competitor took the first with 10. To take first place during the half-time show, Padilla-Rodriguez completed 13 throws and her competitor made 10.
"It is such an honor to participate in this event during the SEC Championship," she said. "This opportunity is significant to me because it demonstrates the opportunities that I have to help lessen my family's financial burdens."
In her winning video, Padilla-Rodriguez expressed her love for the University of Nevada, Reno by describing how she was willing to wait for three hours to get tickets to this year's homecoming football game.
"What attracts me to the University's athletic program is the sense of community that it evokes," she said. "It brings students together after a stressful week of classes in an environment where school spirit and having fun are priorities. I was willing to wait in a long line for tickets to the UNR-UNLV game because I was excited to go to my first college football game," she continued. "And to show off my pride to be a part of the Nevada Wolf Pack."
KTVN-TV, Channel 2 News, got the opportunity to talk to Ivon right after she won the Tuition Throw and reported the following:
"Dr. Pepper helped me so much," she said. "Now, I can be able to achieve my dreams because of Dr. Pepper."
Ivon also told Channel 2 News that in the week leading up to the competition, she enlisted the help of Wolf Pack Quarterback Cody Fajardo.
He talked about the encounter with Ivon in a post-game interview after the Pack beat the Idaho Vandals 56-3 on Saturday.
"She's in my theatre class," Fajardo said. "She sits right next to me. She's like, 'you're Cody, right? The quarterback?' I was like, 'uh, yeah.' She's like, 'I really don't know how to throw a ball.' I was like, 'you know, I'll do the best I can.' So, we went out there on Monday at Mackay Stadium and I gave her just little pointers and tips. Apparently, she took them a long way and won the whole thing."
The 18-year-old from Las Vegas plans to use the money to pursue her majors in English and history, as well as her minor in the philosophy of law, ethics and politics. After graduation, she wants to attend law school and become a lawyer.
"One day, I hope to become a federal judge and ultimately, a Supreme Court Justice," she said.
She volunteers at the Good Luck Macbeth Theater in Reno, where she runs the sound and light board. At the University, she serves on the Academic Affairs Committee, Public Affairs Committee and Government Operations Committee within the Associated Students of the University of Nevada, the University's student government.