In its 29 years of existence, the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation has awarded more than 5,550 college scholarships to high school seniors. What do all of those selected have in common? A passion to make our world a better place, and the determination to make it happen.
Bringing together these like-minded leaders, the Coca-Cola Scholars Alumni Advisory Board (AAB) hosted the inaugural Service Summit in Miami September 11-13. Program alumni of all ages came from across the country to learn from local experts and fellow alumni how to maximize one’s impact in service. The three-day event explored finding solutions to a sustainable future for people, places and our planet, and delved into the worlds of philanthropy, elected office, and nonprofit leadership.
“I think what the AAB has done has given us the opportunity to connect with each other and to find ways we can help support our communities, whether they be in Atlanta, Georgia, or a remote village in Pakistan. We’ve found opportunities where we can share our collective talents and our collective insights to genuinely make the world a better place,” said Mary Kathryn Covert Steel, US Spokeswoman for Sanofi and 2003 Scholar.
Kicking off on Friday, September 11, Scholars and alumni focused on serving people, particularly through civil service, learning from Carlos Gimenez, Mayor of Miami-Dade County (R), and Jack Seiler, Mayor of Ft. Lauderdale (D) in a panel moderated by Marc Eichenbaum, Special Assistant to the Mayor for Homeless Initiatives for the City of Houston and 2000 Scholar.
On Saturday, alumni focused on discovering what makes a community great and how to enrich the places we live and work, culminating with a service event with City Year Miami, an organization working to increase graduation rates by bridging the gap in high-poverty communities between the support that students actually need, and what their schools are designed and resourced to provide. Alumni and City Year corps members completed 14 different improvement projects at Cutler Bay Middle School with school volunteers.
“The impact is going to be immeasurable. We didn’t tell any of the students because we want it to be a surprise when they return on Tuesday. To see the amazement in their eyes is going to be huge,” said Paul Pfeiffer, Principal at Cutler Bay Middle School, while witnessing the project in action.
Sunday the group moved to the University of Miami and explored sustainability and how to make an impact as a corporation. Mike Fernandez, Founder of MBF Healthcare Partners, shared how to create social good through business, and April Crow, Senior Director of Environment and Sustainability at The Coca-Cola Company, discussed the creation of Coca-Cola’s PlantBottle and other sustainability initiatives.
Throughout the weekend, several alumni shared how they give back to their communities through endeavors ranging from public service in elected office and government to work with a nonprofit. Among the group was Steven Olikara, Co-Founder and President of the Millennial Action Project and 2008 Scholar, and Rep. Katrina Shankland of the Wisconsin State Assembly and 2005 Scholar.
“I knew if I came down here that I would feel motivated and inspired, and I have new ideas to take back with me,” said Shankland.
The Service Summit concluded with alumni standing to make service pledges to benefit their communities when they return home.
“We hope Scholars will leave here reconnected to their mission of service, and with a mature understanding of what that might mean in their daily lives and the different forms it might take,” said Micaela Connery, who coordinated programming for the event and is a 2004 Scholar. President of the Scholars Foundation J. Mark Davis agreed, “This reignites the flame for service.”
The Coca-Cola Scholars Alumni Advisory Board was created by alumni in 2006 to build on the efforts of the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation through networking, mentoring, and collaborations. They have collaborated with the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation to host two Leadership Summits in the past, and this is the first summit focused solely on service. In July of 2015, the AAB hosted the successful Coke Scholars Hack, an event where alumni found creative solutions for nonprofits in just one day.
“We will continue to set the mark for what a really diverse and powerful network of alums can do together when they’re connected,” said TJ Abrams, Global Senior Brand Manager for Sprite and Adults at The Coca-Cola Company and 2001 Coca-Cola Scholar.
High school seniors may apply to be a Coca-Cola Scholar and receive a $20,000 college scholarship on the Foundation’s website through October 31.
Watch a video about #CokeScholarsServe:
The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation provides scholarship programs and lifelong enrichment opportunities in support of exceptional peoples’ thirst for knowledge and their desire to make a difference in the world. Through the Coca-Cola Scholars Program, they award 150 college scholarships of $20,000 to socially-conscious and service-minded high school seniors across the nation each year, resulting in a network of over 5,550 program alumni who have become a powerful force for positive change. For more information about the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation, Scholar alumni, or how to support these efforts, visit www.coca‑colascholars.org or contact Lauren O’Brien at laurenobrien@coca‑cola.com.