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.
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 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.