Alumni Accolades December 2015 & January 2016

Forbes 30 Under 30_Picture Collage_2016.01.25

Christopher Gray (2010), Vicky Wu (2005), and Katherine Jin (2012) have been named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 List! Christopher, Co-founder of Scholly, a scholarship search app, is in the Social Entrepreneurs category, and Vicky, Global Partnerships Manager for Anheuser-Busch InBev, is in the Retail and E-Commerce category. Katherine, Co-founder of Kinnos, was in the Healthcare category for creating a product that protects heathcare workers from infectious disease.

Vivek Ramaswamy (2003) was a judge in the Healthcare field. An alum of Forbes 30 Under 30, he founded Roivant Sciences and pulled off one of the biggest IPOs in biotech history with Alzheimer’s startup Axovant.

Shaan Patel on Shark Tank_Picture Collage_2016.01.25

Shaan Patel (2007) will be appearing on ABC’s Shark Tank on Friday, January 29. As 7 million viewers watch, Patel will be pitching a panel of multimillionaires for an investment in his educational test-prep company, 2400 Expert.

UPDATE: He did it! Shaan made a deal with Mark Cuban, trading a 20% stake in his company for a $250,000 investment! Watch the full episode here – Shaan is the last entrepreneur to appear in the episode.

Patel started the company after he improved his own SAT score from average to a perfect 2400 in high school (a feat achieved by only 0.02% of all students), and wanted to teach other students how to improve their scores. 2400 Expert is a test preparation company that offers 6-week SAT & ACT prep courses in 20 cities and online.

2400 Expert offers 100 strategies developed by a perfect score SAT student, double the course hours at half the price with top instructors, and most importantly an industry-leading average SAT score improvement of 368 points. Many of its students have received admission into Ivy League schools, won millions in college scholarships, and some have even gotten perfect SAT scores themselves!

To celebrate airing on Shark Tank, 2400 Expert is giving away $100,000 in SAT prep courses & streamed an online viewing party! Details are available here.

Kai Kight Album Cover_Screen Grab_2016.01.26

Kai Kight (2010), who performed at last year’s Scholar Banquet, released his debut album, Renegade.

Jack Andraka Breakthrough_Cover

Jack Andraka’s (2015) book ‪Breakthrough: How One Teen Innovator is Changing the World was named to the American Library Association’s Rainbow List.

Kelsey in Speaker Magazine

Kelsey Tainsh (2008) is featured in the December issue of Speaker Magazine. Read the full article, “Being Kelsey,” here.

Alumni Connections December 2015 & January 2016

TJ Abrams Speaker Banner_2016.01.25 TJ Abrams Jolene Loetscher in SD_2016.01.25

After an invitation from Jolene Loetscher (1997) and her husband Nate, TJ Abrams (2001) traveled to South Dakota to speak to the Advertising Federation about the race to 2020 and how global brands can prepare for the future. TJ discussed brand management and his experiences as Global Brand Director for Holiday Inn at InterContinental Hotels Group.

Jason Howard and John TangJason Howard (1995) attended The National Black Caucus of State Legislators Youth Congress Day Luncheon on December 2 as a guest of The Coca-Cola Company. Many thanks to John Tang (Public Affairs Manager, The Coca-Cola Company) for giving our alumni this opportunity!

Group edit 1

Several Scholar alumni came to visit us for the holidays and many brought their kids! Alumni pictured above: Paul Serrato (2015), Grant Means (2012), Torarie Durden (1994), Jany Brown (1992), Alice Park (1999), and Lesley Wainwright (1994).

Crystal Williams and Carolyn_2015.12

Crystal Williams (2003) stopped by, too!

Anmol Jamie and Mark

Anmol Tabassum (2014) visited The Coca-Cola Company headquarters while in town for a conference and took a photo with Mark Davis and Jamie Williams from our staff.

Christina Marshall and Carolyn_2015.12

Christina Marshall (2001) came to see us when visiting from Chicago.

Bonnie Lei (2011) is studying in Myanmar where she met up with Patti Ross (former VP of CCSF) while she was on vacation there last week!

Alumni Accolades November 2015

Kelsey Tainsh

Kelsey Tainsh (2008) was featured in BYOU Magazine in their “Girls Making A Difference” section. In December she will also be featured in the National Speaker’s Association Speaker Magazine as one of their youngest professional members. Read the article here.

Nicholas Cobb

Nicholas Cobb (2014) was featured on University of Texas – Austin’s website. He was interviewed about his nonprofit Comfort and Joy and recounted his recent trip to the 2015 Nickelodeon HALO Awards. Read the article here.

Kavita Shukla and FreshPaper

FreshPaper, invented by Fenugreen Founder/CEO Kavita Shukla (2002), was featured in Upworthy.

Alumni Connections November 2015

2015 AAB Retreat Group PhotoThe Alumni Advisory Board held their annual working retreat outside of Atlanta on November 13 and 14. The group welcomed new members, reflected on their work from 2015, and planned new alumni engagement activities for 2016. The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation Alumni Advisory Board was formed in 2006 by alumni Scholars to help support the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation’s mission and goals. Learn more about the members of the AAB.

2015 Google Event Group Photo

Close to 40 Scholar alumni attended a special networking and professional development event at Google headquarters outside of San Francisco last week where a trained Google facilitator led them in a session on “Mindfulness”.

2015 Nov Newsletter_Connections_LA Reception_2015.11.24

Over 50 Coca-Cola Scholars and alumni came to a reception at Sony Pictures Entertainment in Los Angeles last week arranged by David Buckholtz (1993) and Josh Miller (2005), who both work at Sony. The reception featured catering by Wolfgang Puck, and early guests enjoyed a tour of Sony studios!

National Council of Negro Women

Coke Scholars Karina Plascencia (2010) and Eric Beeler (2012) attended the National Council of Negro Women 14th Annual Uncommon Height Gala in Washington, DC thanks to an invitation from The Coca-Cola Company! Pictured from the left: Jon Thompson, Linda Brigham (Senior Manager, Public Affairs and Communications, The Coca-Cola Company), Karina Plascencia (2010), Clyde Tuggle (SVP, Chief Public Affairs & Communications Officer, The Coca-Cola Company), Eric Beeler (2012), and Eric’s guest.

La Mama Gala

La Mama Gala

La Mama Gala

Joseph English (2013), Nisha Desai (2004) and Nina Chandra (2006) were invited to attend the La Mama Theater Gala on Nov. 2 in New York by Donna Cirolia at The Coca-Cola Company. They got to meet Sarah Jessica Parker, who hosted the festive event!

2015 Nov Newsletter_Connections_International Women's Forum Gala_2015.11.24

Rocio Ortega (2012), Jessica Zhao (2014) and Sarah Perkins (2007) enjoyed the opportunity to attend the International Women’s Forum Gala in New York and meet Wanda Rodwell, Director of Communications at The Coca-Cola Company, pictured here with them.

Shravani Mikkilineni and Jennifer Paxton

Jennifer Paxton wrote to tell us that a fellow 2008 Coke Scholar from Michigan, Shravani Mikkilineni, is her classmate in the MBA program at The University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, and sent us this picture of them with some classmates. “I am still so very thankful for the relationships that Coke brought into my life,” said Jennifer.

Pat Blute

Pat Blute (2008) made time to visit our office for lunch.

Joe Semsar

Joe Semsar (2005) stopped by our office while traveling to the Atlanta for business.

Hilary Corna

Hilary Corna (2003) came to see us while in town for a conference.

Christopher GrayChristopher Gray (2010) stopped by our office before meeting with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and brought Scholly hats!

Alumni Accolades October 2015

Katori Hall

Award-winning playwright Katori Hall (1999) is now directing a short film! She will make her directing debut when “Arkabutla” is released in early 2016.

J. Justin Pasquariello

Justin Pasquariello (1997), Executive Director, Children’s HealthWatch in Boston was honored as one of Ten Outstanding Young Leaders for the Boston Chamber of Commerce at their awards banquet in September.

Alumni Connections October 2015

We continued our fall receptions in Utah, Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas!

2015 Utah Reception

Swire Coca-Cola bottling in Draper, UT hosted a great reception for our Scholars and alumni.

2015 Chicago Reception

25 Scholars and alumni joined Mark and Carolyn in Chicago on October 5.

2015 Durham Reception

Jamie, Carolyn and Megan enjoyed visiting with over 30 Scholars and alumni in Durham, NC on October 22. Thank you to Hager Rand and Jean McGuire with Durham Coca-Cola for attending and providing product for us and to Jamie Lathan (1996) for helping us secure a room at the NC School of Science and Math!

2015 Charleston Dinner

Matt Clemmens (2002), Anne Rhett (2005) and Wesli Jones (2012) attended dinner with Jamie, Carolyn, LaQuanda and Jane while they were in Charleston, SC for the National Scholarship Providers Association (NSPA) conference. Big thanks to Matt and his wife Clarice for hosting us and cooking a delicious meal for everyone!

2015 Austin Reception

Lauren, Megan, LaQuanda and Emily enjoyed seeing about 20 Scholars and alumni in Austin, TX on October 26 while they were in town for Blackbaud’s BBCON conference.

Sue Suh and Peter Kim at the Korean Parade and Festival in NYC

Sue Suh (1992) and Peter Kim (2011) volunteered at the Korean Parade and Festival in New York City on October 3, sharing information about the Coca-Cola Scholars Program with attendees.

Sue Suh and Peter Kim at the Korean Parade and Festival in NYC …and then rode on top of a float!

Scholars Kevin Chung (1990), Mehul Patel (1994), Jason Pate (2005), and Sarah Williams (2011) met up in California.Scholars Kevin Chung (1990), Mehul Patel (1994), Jason Pate (2005), and Sarah Williams (2011) met up in California.

Miami Nice: Coke Scholars Serve South Florida Community at Inaugural Service Summit

Miami Service Summit_MK leading the way to service project_Screen Grab

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.

Mayors and Marc

Mayors Carlos Gimenez of Miami-Dade County (left) and Jack Seiler of Ft. Lauderdale (middle) share insights with Scholars.


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.

Miami Service Summit_Empowering Words Mural

Coca-Cola Scholars and City Year Miami corps members paint an encouraging mural in a hallway at Cutler Bay Middle School.


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.

Miami Service Summit_Building Benches

Coke Scholars Jeremy O’Brien and Joel Martin build a bench to go by the basketball courts at Cutler Bay Middle School.


“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.

April Crow with Coke Scholars

April Crow, Senior Director of Environment and Sustainability at The Coca-Cola Company, discusses sustainability initiatives with Coke Scholars.


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.”

.Miami Service Summit_Group Picture with Hands_No kids_Cropped

City Year Miami corps members, school volunteers, and Coca-Cola Scholars after a productive day of 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.

See more pictures of #CokeScholarsServe.

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‑ or contact Lauren O’Brien at laurenobrien@coca‑

Alumni Accolades September 2015

Elise StefanikIn November of 2014, 2002 Scholar Elise Stefanik became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress when she was voted to represent New York’s 21st district in the U.S. House of Representatives at just 30 years old. Elise was tapped to chair the House Republican Policy Committee’s new Millennial Task Force to tackle issues facing her generation, and some GOP leaders are calling her the future of the party. Read a fantastic Q&A with her on Coca-Cola Journey, including her advice for the newest class of Coca-Cola Scholars.

“One of the lessons I’ve learned is that you should embrace what makes you unique. When I first started running for office, I was told I had to sound and act like a typical Congressional candidate who’s double my age and represents a certain demographic. That turned out to be bad advice, so I didn’t take it. I owned the fact that I was a young female candidate who was different and had a different perspective – and that ended up being a strength in the campaign.” said Elise.

Samantha Smith

Samantha Smith (2015) is a recipient of the LPGA tour’s Marilynn Smith Scholarship. Each year, 25 high school seniors who will play collegiate golf while pursuing college degrees are selected based on outstanding academic excellence, leadership skills and active involvement and service to her community. Each recipient receives $5,000 in scholarships.

Steven Olikara 2Steven Olikara (2008) wrote an op-ed for encouraging young leaders to reinvent our government and politics.

Alumni Connections September 2015

Denver Reception 2015

25 Scholars and alumni came together for our first fall reception in Denver earlier this month. Scholars were joined by special guests from Swire Coca-Cola, the Daniels Fund the Boettcher Foundation (who provided the beautiful venue pictured above), and Scholars Foundation staff.

Atlanta Student Reception

We also hosted a reception for students in Atlanta this month. The dinner served as a great way for our college-aged Scholars to connect with Jamie Williams, our new Director of the Undergraduate Scholars Program.

Nancy Redd & Elizabeth Galbut

Nancy Redd (1999) and Elizabeth Galbut (2007) were on HuffPost Live together on Monday, September 21. Nancy, a HuffPost Live host, interviewed Elizabeth, Founding Partner at SoGal Ventures, about recent efforts to revitalize the concord airplane. Watch the video here, and find them at the 18:40 mark.

Justin and Justin

Justin Pearson (2013) and Justin Hattan (1996) met up for lunch in Washington, DC.  Justin Pearson is interning in Congress, and Justin Hattan works at the National Security Council in the White House.

Kelsey and Kai

Kelsey Tainsh (2008) ran into Kai Kight (2010) at the 2015 Inbound Conference where they were both featured speakers.

Mark Karyn

J. Mark Davis, President of CCSF, attended the PAGE Foundation’s annual banquet and spotted Karyn Harrington (1997, left) and Ogechi Oparah (2009, middle).

Alumni Accolades August 2015

Ben Sasse Large

1990 Scholar Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) is featured in a Q&A in Coca-Cola Journey. Ben was elected last November after serving as president of Midland University, a 130-year-old Lutheran college he steered out of bankruptcy to become one of the fastest-growing higher education institutions in the country by the time of his departure.

Said Ben, “I remember my interview during the selection weekend very clearly. Five interviewers, bright lights and a lot of questions that challenged us not to give predictable answers about wanting to save the world. I remembered and appreciated the rigor of those questions in the following years. It’s been great staying connected to the Scholars Foundation, and I was honored to serve on that same selection committee later.”

Raina and Book

Raina Kadavil (2015) published her first book, “The Voice of Thunder,” a young adult fiction novel she describes as “a little bit like Game of Thrones crossed with Avatar: The Last Airbender.” Read more about the book and find it on

First Lady Michelle Obama greets a participant after delivering remarks at a Reach Higher Champions of Change event in Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White House, June 30, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson) This photograph is provided by THE WHITE HOUSE as a courtesy and may be printed by the subject(s) in the photograph for personal use only. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not otherwise be reproduced, disseminated or broadcast, without the written permission of the White House Photo Office. This photograph may not be used in any commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.

Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson

Ahmad Shawwal (2015) took a photo with First Lady Michelle Obama after delivering remarks at a Reach Higher Champions of Change event in Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White House on June 30, 2015. The event spotlighted innovative education practices.

Said Ahmad, “In her speech, she recognized the student leaders in the room. I stood up as she addressed us; however, I was the only one standing! She complemented me for displaying leadership, so I asked to take a picture with her, but I did not expect to receive one. After the event, I left the room and was suddenly escorted by staff to an area where Michelle Obama was waiting for me. I was star-struck. So, my first response was to run and give her a big hug! I’m almost certain that I broke protocol, but I was too excited to care! She was kind enough to speak to me for a few minutes. I thanked her for all the work she’s done for education reform and took pictures with her.”


Julian Plowden (2010) was interviewed on City NPR 90.1 WABE’s City Lights. Julian discussed several of his photos and his experience photographing #BlackLivesMatter protests.