5 Ways to be an Everyday Change Agent

by Kaitlyn Chana, 2009 Coca-Cola Scholar

Change happens all around us. We may see some of it, but other times it happens in small increments, and we don’t realize the beauty of what’s different until it’s completed.

I was one of more than 75 Coke Scholars and guests who traveled from around the world to attend the second annual Coca-Cola Scholars Service Summit in Austin, Texas. We focused on maximizing our impact through service, whether it be through public policy, philanthropy, or writing thank you notes to teachers at a local elementary school. We had several interactive panelists who addressed topics that spun into conversations on social perceptiveness, being a moving force to create change and living a well-balanced life.

We not only learned new, innovative ideas, but also evolved, and grew personally and professionally along the way.

Change agents aren’t superheroes. They’re everyday people, just like you.

Here are five ways to incorporate our hands, heart and knowledge to create a lasting change.

1. Give from your heart.

As part of the Service Summit, we spent a day volunteering at Zavala Elementary. Each brush stroke, every screw drilled into the wall and all of the mulch bags laid on the playground mattered. Each physical task came from the heart; we were doing our best to update an underprovided school for some local children.

We wanted to make sure each child felt special walking through these doors as they made their way to their classrooms. We wanted to inspire. Encourage. And ignite hope during their hardest hours. Coca-Cola Scholars showed them love, compassion and determination by giving from our hearts.

We united for one cause. As a team, we learned about the school’s challenges and what these children cope with at home. Having this one opportunity to give back doesn’t guarantee we understand all the problems these kids face, but it makes us understand what type of change needs to be brought into communities, like these, in our hometowns.


2. Do something!

This is your time. Get up, get moving and find your vehement love of doing something greater than yourself. Bringing awareness to an issue is where the passion of curiosity mixed with giving allows people to explore various volunteer opportunities.

Summit Speakers Mayor Steve Adler and Former Mayor Annise Parker informed us that the best way to be a change agent is by doing. They said, “If you want to see the change, be the change. Don’t wait. Do something today.” No matter if that’s getting involved with feeding the homeless, teaching at inner city schools, helping as an assistant sports captain or volunteering with children in the pediatric oncology unit, these are all vital roles in making us a stronger society.

3. Throw out the plan.

Each morning, I write a list – a list for what needs to be done, a list of achievable goals and lofty aspirations. My mind constantly writes plans, so I can live the dream life I’ve dreamt of since middle school. I wholeheartedly believed that if I plan my work for today and every day, then one day I’ll be able to work and live my idealistic plan.

Well, 1997 Scholar Daron Roberts told us to throw out the plan.

Daunting for a planner like me… in hindsight, ditching my future life plans has allowed me to see a broader world. A world filled with possibilities and opportunities, not just a plan.


4. Self-renew.

Self-renewal, to me, means looking at yourself and evaluating your decisions to make sure you’re living a balanced lifestyle. Several Scholars and I talked about what it’s like to do a “self-check” by reflecting on our needs and wants in life. No one can teach you about yourself except you.

One Coke Scholar shared with me that internally we have all have the answers; we just have to spend time with ourselves through reflection to understand what we want.



5. Overcome your fear. 

 We can run, or we can face our fear and rise. It’s a choice. It’s your choice.

Thousands of people are not living their dreams because they’re living in fear of something or someone.  This summit experience taught me to take a leap of faith and breathe through my fear.

If you know me, I have a tremendous trepidation of dancing. All my life, I avoided dancing at parties, homecomings, prom or weddings.

One evening of the Summit, many Scholars went to a famous two-stepping spot, and I joined hoping to mingle and chat, but not hit the dance floor.

A fellow Scholar, Cesar, showed kindness, encouragement and patience as he pushed me towards the dance floor. He helped me breathe and get through every step of the song. His push has landed me into signing up for dance classes. I learned your largest fear carries your greatest growth.

A change agent empowers others everyday to be the best person they can be. Whether you help a friend overcome their fear of dancing, help repaint the teacher’s lounge at a local elementary school, or even become mayor of your city someday, we all start somewhere. We can all make an impact, and create real change, one person at a time.



kaitlyn-chanaKaitlyn Chana is a 2009 Coca-Cola Scholar who is a morning reporter at Action News Jax (CBS47/FOX 30) in Jacksonville, Florida. She believes that storytellers are the bloodlines that bring awareness to the issues, and allow viewers to start conversations and make informed decisions that could impact their family, communities and nation. Kaitlyn is also a philanthropist for children with life-threatening illnesses, emcee and speaker on eating disorders. Outside of work, you’ll find Kaitlyn working out on the stairmaster at the gym and spending time tubing on the open waters.

September 2016 Accolades


Iman Cooper (2011) and a team of students from Earlham College were awarded the 2016 Holt Prize! The group created Magic Bus, an offline app which aims to increase public transportation efficiency in developing countries. Magic Bus has been awarded $1 million in seed funding to launch its operations in Kenya and the rest of Africa.

“We are 100% committed to our mission to increase predictability in the bus system in order to empower commuters to access jobs, education, and healthcare across the African continent. We hope that you continue to play a part in spreading the magic with us! Follow our journey over the next few months with #magicbusticketing,” Magic Bus posed on their Facebook page.


Heather Bowerman (2002) was named among the top innovators under 35 by the MIT Technology Review. Heather is CEO of a startup, Dot Laboratories, that is developing a cheap and easy way to test female sex hormone levels and track them online. A patient spits into a tube at specific times and mails the tubes to Dot Laboratories. The company then delivers data on hormone levels in an app for the woman or her doctor to review. Detailed hormonal data could help doctors tailor drugs and treatment regimens so that they work better for women.   


Rachel Blanks (2003) is featured in the September issue of Cooking Light magazine, and is in the running to be named Family Dinner Hero. You can grab the issue on newsstands now and vote for her until October.


Jake Basden (2002) is being honored by the University of Oklahoma with the 2016 Regent’s Young Alumni Award, the second highest honor bestowed upon alumni at OU. Jake is Vice President of Publicity and Corporate Communications for Big Machine Label Group in Nashville.


Kavita Shukla (2002) was named one of the “5 Most Innovative Women in Food” in TIME Magazine. She also just signed a deal with HSN for FreshPaper, naturally antibacterial sheets infused with herbs to help produce last four times longer.


Daron Roberts (1997) recently sat down with Kevin Durant to discuss life as one of the most visible professional athletes at UT Austin’s Center for Sports Leadership and Innovation. Watch the interview here.

September 2016 Connections


75 Coca-Cola Scholars, alumni, and spouses came together in Austin for the 2016 Coca-Cola Scholars Service Summit, a 3-day event that focused on how to be an everyday change agent in your community. After the first day of dynamic speakers, the group spent the second day refreshing Zavala Elementary, where Tim McCallum (1991) went to school, with United Way for Greater Austin.


50 Coke Scholars and friends joined The Coca-Cola Company at Citi Field in NYC for the Mets game on September 19!  Though the Mets didn’t win the game, fun was had by all. CCSF would like to thank Donna Cirolia (Public Affairs and Communications, The Coca-Cola Company) and her team at the New York office for the tickets to the game! See more pictures.


Mark Davis enjoyed catching up with our Scholars and alumni in Minneapolis last week.


Mark, Jane, and Carolyn of the CCSF team enjoyed dinner with a small group of alumni in San Francisco.


Jamie and Ericia from the CCSF team had dinner with Scholars in Columbus, Ohio.connections_jason-pate-wedding_2016-09connections_jason-pate-wedding-group_2016-09

Jason Pate (2005) married Deanna Lazzaroni in Sonoma, CA, on September 17 at a gorgeous winery with 18 friends from the Coke Scholars family in attendance.


Anna Jo Cowan (2011) married Chase Davis (son of Mark Davis) in a beautiful ceremony in Omaha, NE, on September 4, 2016. In attendance from the Coke Scholars family were Antoine Jefferson (2004), Jillian Roberts (2011), Arjun Agarwala (2011) and of course the proud father, Mark Davis!


On his way driving back from his son’s wedding, Mark Davis stopped in St. Louis for a brief visit with Chris Leahy (1999), who is battling cancer. Mark is happy to report that Chris was doing okay and looked great!


While on a trip to Uganda for engineering students at Stanford, Emily Pang (2014) and Kate Gasparro (2010) realized that they were both proud Coke Scholars!



Fabiani Duarte (2006) and Samuel Wakefield (2001) stopped by our office for a visit. Fabiani brought a bag of bow ties and challenged Mark to a bow tying contest! Much to Mark’s dismay, Fabiani won every time. Samuel even got in on the fun!


Will Schultz (1994) and his assistant, Misty, came by our office while in Atlanta on business. They work for Merchant & Gould in Minneapolis.



Jany Brown (1992), Jane Hopkins (CCSF), Carolyn Norton (CCSF), Alice Park (1999), Lesley Wainwright (1994), and Patti Ross (former CCSF VP) got together for Korean Bunco.


Kim Rash (1990) and her husband Bob stopped by Coca-Cola to say goodbye before moving to Uganda to help people start small sustainable businesses.



Jane Hopkins (CCSF), Ryan Rodriguez (former Program Manager at CCSF), and Carolyn Norton (CCSF) enjoyed a visit with Rita Ng (1996) and her kids Logan (2) and Lucas (3 months) riding a steam train around the redwood trees in Oakland.


Grant Means (2012) and his girlfriend Lorel came by to visit us at our office.


Julia Durham (2010) stopped by to say hello after moving back to Atlanta.


Nicholas Cobb (2014) welcomed Bhavin Gupta (2016) to the University of Texas at Austin. The Scholars are 2018 and 2020 Computer Science majors respectively. Hook’Em!


Scholars around the country have continued the tradition of hosting welcome back pizza socials as fall terms have begun. So far Scholars at Brigham Young, Case Western Reserve, Harvard, Princeton, and UNC-Chapel Hill have scheduled their gatherings, with many more to come. At a “buy a slice/give a slice” restaurant, UPenn Scholars donated 145 pieces of pizza for the local homeless.


Case Western Reserve Scholars


Cornell Scholars


Princeton Scholars

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University of Pennsylvania Scholars

August 2016 Accolades


Dahkota Kicking Bear Brown (2016) is the youngest person to be appointed to a White House administrative post by a president. He’s 1 of 15 appointed to The National Advisory Council on Indian Education. “It’s a huge honor to have my voice at the table, working with so many valuable mentors,” Dahkota told us. Read more.


Robert Accordino (1999) has been appointed by the White House to the class of 2016-2017 White House Fellows! The White House Fellows Program was created in 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson to give promising American leaders “first hand, high-level experience with the workings of the Federal government, and to increase their sense of participation in national affairs.” This unique opportunity to work within our nation’s government is designed to encourage active citizenship and a lifelong commitment to service.

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Financial aid author Kristina Ellis (2005) is helping students reach financial freedom through her new book, How to Graduate Debt Free: the Best Strategies to Pay for College. She is also the author of best-selling book Confessions of a Scholarship Winner.

Jordyn Turner (2012) won a Schwarzman Scholarship, and is part of the inaugural class of Scholars who will be studying at the prestigious Tsinghua University in Beijing this year.

Jake Bernstein (2012) was awarded an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship for fencing. The award is worth $7,500, to be used toward graduate studies.

August 2016 Connections

Nola Weinstein (2001) hosted a #CokeScholarsPro professional networking event at Twitter in New York City.

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Sharing advice from her experience as Head of Executive Engagement at Twitter, Nola helped our Scholars create their personal brand using the platform.

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After almost a year of developing a model with the Center for Creative Leadership, several alumni volunteers along with all Foundation staff members were trained to learn how to support Scholars as they transition to college, explore engagement opportunities on their campuses, and set and work towards a personal goal. Learn more about CCSF’s new coaching pilot.

In addition to the CCSF staff, the alumni Coaches pictured above are Angela Harrell (1991), Anita Kishore (1995), Jamie Lathan (1996), Albert Lawrence (2003), Christina Marshall-Valdez (2001), Nekeisha Randall (2004), Samorn Selim (2000), Joe Semsar (2005), and Sarah Williams (2011).

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Becky Pope (2008, center) ran into Diana Wilson (2014) and Jide Omekam (2014) at a Google diversity event in Mountain View, CA.

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Sue Suh (1992 Scholar and new member of our Board of Directors) visited staff while she was in town for the board meeting on August 2. Sue is the Chief Talent Officer for the Rockefeller Foundation in NYC.

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Brandon Hardy (2016) came by for lunch before heading to Notre Dame for his freshman year.

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Hannah Nemer (2010) and Sami Stoner (2013) had lunch with the team before Sami’s internship with The Coca-Cola Company’s Public Affairs and Communications team ended. Hannah is currently interning with Coca-Cola Journey, writing articles and creating the best gifs ever.

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Eric Beeler (2013) came by for lunch and taught us about the wonders of Snapchat.

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Megan Rosenberger (2013) stopped by while in Atlanta before starting her final year at the U.S. Naval Academy.

July 2016 Accolades

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Holly Sanchez Perry (2009) joined with U by Kotex and DoSomething.org to start “The Power of the Period” project. It’s the first-ever, national period products drive and second installment of the Period Projects – a series of projects, each inspired and led by a woman who has passion for creating change.

The project is from July 14 – September 30, 2016, and will bring awareness to the issues of homelessness and menstrual health. People can sign up to participate in the project on their local level by visiting https://www.dosomething.org/us/campaigns/power-period and even have the opportunity to win a $5,000 scholarship!

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“I did a small-scale Chicago-based drive in March of this year and I’m so excited to have the opportunity to help take this nationally,” said Holly.

July 2016 Connections

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Chicago Scholars and alumni met up for pizza at Xoco, which they highly recommend to anyone passing through the city. Pictured left to right: Jeremy O’Brien (2012), Kurt von Laven (2008), Holly Sanchez Perry (2009), Mark Hendrickx (1997), and Radhika Rawat (2010).

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Scholars who work at US Aid in Washington, D.C., got together for lunch. Pictured left to right:  Ryan McCannell (1989), Jay Gilliam (2000), Kristin Kelly Jangraw (2003), and Karina Plascencia (2010).

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Walter and Natalia Menjivar (2005 and 2004 Scholars) and Brad Galiette (2004) met up for dinner in Mystic, CT. Since becoming Coke Scholars, Walter and Natalia both attended Vanderbilt and later got married, and Walter and Brad collaborated on a Connecticut-focused economic development effort, not realizing their Coke Scholar connection at the time.

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Carolyn Norton (CCSF Alumni Relations Manager) got together with Jack Terschluse (2012), Kamber Schneider (2001), and Kamber’s son when she was in St. Louis in June.

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Kari Philbeck (1994) and her family dropped by our office while she was in town for the Food Services Convention. Mark had not seen her in years, and it was great to reconnect! Kari works for The Coca-Cola Company in Las Vegas.

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 Elizabeth Fisher (1996) and her adorable kids dropped by our office for lunch.

Alumni Accolades June 2016

Sulekha Ramayya (2012) graduated as Valedictorian from the University of Southern California and had the opportunity to address a crowd of over 65,000. Read more about her story.

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Jolene Loetscher (1997) and her husband Nate Burdine, owners of Mud Mile Communications in South Dakota, won a Telly award for the 2015 Scholars Weekend video they produced for the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation! Jolene and Nate received a Telly award for the 2014 Scholars Weekend video last year as well. Telly awards honor the very best film & video productions, groundbreaking online video content, and outstanding local, regional, and cable TV commercials and programs.

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Brendon Yu (2010) works for the Cleveland Cavaliers and got this photo with the trophy when the team beat the Warriors in the NBA finals last week!

Elizabeth Walker (1989) sent up a powerful flare coast-to-coast with her moving reflection on leadership, life and service in an eloquent appeal to her alma mater, Harvard University, to rebalance its honor roll. Harvard published her op-ed in the Commencement edition of the University paper, and it has since been shared across more than 15 universities, including NYU, Yale, Notre Dame, Stanford, UNC, Cornell, Columbia, Johns Hopkins, UVA, Duke, Georgetown, Vassar, Brown, and the London School of Economics.

Alumni Connections June 2016

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We enjoyed visiting with around 100 Scholars and alumni at our Washington, DC, reception this month!

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Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (2002) shared her journey into government and stories of unexpected meetings with fellow Scholars at the reception.

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Kevin Chung (1990) and Albert Lawrence (2003) met up for dinner in Los Angeles when Kevin was in town for work.

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Jany Brown (1992) and Graham Van Schaik (2008) met up in Atlanta with Graham’s Mom and Jany’s son (also named Graham) when he was in town taking his medical board exams. Jany had helped to select “Graham 1.0” (as she calls him) as a Coke Scholar in 2008, and was so impressed by him that when she found out she was pregnant with a boy, she told her Mom, “If this guy is as amazing in person as he is on paper, it’s a sign,” and she named her son Graham! They have since formed a friendship and stay in touch often. Jany says that her son Graham, which they call “Graham 2.0,” has “big shoes to fill!”

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Julie Gherki (1998) and Kavita Shukla (2002) got together while in the same town for work.

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The Coca-Cola Company interns Sami Stoner (2013) and Hannah Nemer (2010) came by to have lunch with us.

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Mark Davis’s daughter Ashley was married in Athens, GA, and the CCSF crew was in attendance! Pictured left to right: Ericia Ward-Williams, Patti Ross, Alison Davis, Ashley Davis, Michael Morrow, Mark Davis, Carolyn Norton, Jane Hale Hopkins, and Lauren O’Brien.

Alumni Accolades May 2016

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2016 Scholars Swetha Revanur and Wyatt Pontius won the Dudley R. Herschbach SIYSS Awards at the 2016 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. The SIYSS is a multi-disciplinary seminar highlighting some of the most remarkable achievements by young scientists from around the world. Swetha and Wyatt will attend the Stockholm International Youth Science Seminar (SIYSS) and attend the Nobel Prize ceremonies in Sweden.

Nadya Ted Talk

Nadya Okamoto (2016) presented at TEDxPortland, speaking about the unaddressed needs of
menstrual hygiene among poor and homeless women.

She founded Camions of Care after her family experienced a degree of homelessness, during which she discovered the unaddressed need of menstrual hygiene among poor and homeless women. Her nonprofit is dedicated to helping women who can’t afford menstrual products so that they can achieve their full potential.

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Jennifer Bergman Harkness (2000) was elected to City Council in Cleveland, Texas!