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 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 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!

Alumni Connections May 2016

Our 2016 Scholars have been busy receiving year-end awards, but also have been presenting their Educator of Distinction Awards to the teachers and mentors who have had a significant impact on their intellectual and personal development. Below are photos from only a handful of the Scholars and their EOD honorees.


Caleigh Propes


Manaal Ali


Cole Diggins


Raymar Turangan


Jessica Peebles


Shangda Xu


George Pandaya


Esther Brown


Angel Chin

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Gracie Schram

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Anne Flenner, teacher of Talia Fradkin


Azim Dharani

Jorge and Nadya

Jorge Casimiro (1994) met up with Nadya Okamoto (2016) in Portland, Oregon. Nadya graduated from the same K-12 school that his daughter attends and where his son will go in the fall! Nadya will be attending Harvard University.

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Four Coca-Cola Scholar alumni had the opportunity to attend the 2016 gala in New York City on behalf of The Coca-Cola Company. One of the world’s largest organizations for youth and social change, has over 5 million active members, and Coca-Cola has been a proud partner since 2015. Featured in this photo, left to right, are: Jonathan Mark (2009), Kyle Baldwin (2006), Russ Mischner (The Coca-Cola Company), Eva Amesse (2007), and Elizabeth Galbut (2007).

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Jeremy O’Brien (2012) interviewed for a position at the Rockefeller Foundation in New York City after reading about it in our Coca-Cola Scholar Alumni LinkedIn group. While there, he connected with Sue Suh (1992), their Chief Talent Officer and member of our Board of Directors, who had told us about the job in the first place!

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Mackenzie Lowry (2006) visited us for lunch while she was in town and told us about her new company, Oasis, that makes the beauty-item-dispensing kiosk, BeautyTouch.

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Nina Vasan (2002), author of Do Good Well, was in town for a conference and stopped by during The Coca-Cola Company’s 130th birthday party in the courtyard!

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Joe Semsar (2005) was in Atlanta for work and stopped in to say hello.

Alumni Accolades April 2016

Roberta Capp

Roberta Capp (1999) won the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Biomedical Science. Watch a video about her here!

As summarized by the Vilcek Foundation, Roberta found that, largely due to systemic barriers to primary care, many patients on Medicaid often depend on emergency departments for non-urgent conditions. To address the issue, Roberta conducted a trial program with patient navigators, trained professionals who work closely with patients to help them obtain timely primary care from diagnosis to follow-up. The trial showed that such services made a significant dent in emergency-department use and hospital admissions. Roberta is working with Medicaid officials in Colorado to improve health care access and delivery for underserved communities. Her work has implications for making health care accessible, affordable, and patient-centered. Roberta is an assistant professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, and she was born in São Paulo, Brazil.

The Vilcek Foundation awards the Vilcek Prizes annually to immigrants who have made lasting contributions to American society through their extraordinary achievements in biomedical research and the arts and humanities. Two prizes are awarded, one in biomedical research and one in the arts and humanities, in a field designated by the Foundation. They are currently accepting applications for 2017 Vilcek prizes. Learn more and apply.

Joelle Murchison

Joelle Murchison (1991) has been named Associate Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer at University of Connecticut. She begins her new role on July 5.

Merry Willis

Merry Willis (2000) was offered a Fulbright Distinctive Awards in Teaching grant to New Zealand! She will leave this fall and be there for a year studying how technology impacts learning.

LaToya Franklyn

LaToya Franklyn (2003) authored College As Reality, a step-by-step guide through the college and scholarship application process. The book documents her own experience with the process and gives the reader an intimate view into her life growing up as a Trinidadian immigrant in Brooklyn, New York.

Alumni Accolades March 2016

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Ari Krasner (2014) co-created the website We Give Two, a charitable cash giveaway that was featured in the Washington Post, and highlighted CCSF as one of their charities of the day!

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The University of North Carolina Press recently published Crystal Sanders’s (2001) book, A Chance for Change: Head Start and Mississippi’s Black Freedom Struggle, in its John Hope Franklin Series in African American History and Culture. A Chance for Change examines how working-class black women transformed a federal early childhood education program into an opportunity to challenge Mississippi’s closed political system and white supremacist ideology.  Sanders is an assistant professor of history and African American Studies at Pennsylvania State University.

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Leila Janah (2000) was featured on the cover of Conscious Company magazine. Read the article, Combating Extreme Poverty Through the Power of Dignified Work.

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Did you watch the Oscars?  If you did, you may have seen Albert Lawrence (2003) hosting part of the “On the Red Carpet” pre-show on ABC.

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You may have also seen Christopher Gray (2010) featured in this Cadillac commercial that aired during the event!

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Aaron Chadbourne (2002) joined us as a member of the Regional Interview Committee in February and wrote a piece about his experience in Medium. “I was selected as a Coca-Cola Scholar back in high school. Since that time, the Coca-Cola Company and the many Coke Scholars I have developed relationships with have made a profound impact on me. Becoming a Scholar is about much more than the money for college — which is helpful — but it’s also about becoming part of a connected community of leaders driven to change the world for the better,” Aaron wrote.

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2400 Expert, SAT prep company owned by Shaan Patel (2007), will get a name change. New business partner Mark Cuban announced the change in this video.

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Tava Kitchen, co-founded by Jason Pate (2005) was named one of 10 cutting edge restaurant concepts poised to influence the industry in a big way by Nation’s Restaurant News.

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Ahmad Shawwal (2015) was voted President of his class at UVA for the second year in a row.

Justin Pearson (2013) at Bowdoin College and Dana Sweeney (2013) at the University of Alabama have won a Princeton Policy Fellowship and will be attending Princeton University’s Public Policy and International Affairs Junior Summer Institute at the Woodrow Wilson School this summer. The program’s mission is to help students from underrepresented groups acquire a graduate degree, typically in public policy, public administration or international affairs. The program provides a $5,000 scholarship to its participants if they end up attending one of 30 top public policy graduate programs.

Zephanii Smith (2008), Associate Consultant, California Legislature Joint Committee on Legislative Audit, has been named a 2016 New Leaders Council Fellow for the Sacramento Chapter.