Who are Coca-Cola Scholars? Maybe “high-achieving students selected as high school seniors to receive a college scholarship.” But it’s more than that. They’re change agents – consistently putting their community first, leading by example, and serving others.
With that in mind, 80 Scholars, alumni, spouses, and CCSF staff came together for a weekend in Austin, Texas, with one mission: make an impact.
The focus was on service — reenergizing and inspiring Coke Scholars to continue their commitment to positively impact their communities as everyday change agents. The weekend of inspiring speakers and projects to refresh Zavala Elementary did just that.
“The idea is to have them come back here, be together, connect with each other, and remind themselves of the importance of service,” said Jane Hale Hopkins, Executive Vice President of the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation.
“We’re very proud of their accomplishments, not only personally, but keeping up their commitment to give back to the community. Coca-Cola’s always been focused on giving back, and Coca-Cola Scholars embody that attitude,” said Morris Smith, Senior Manager of Public Affairs for Coca-Cola North America.
Friday, September 23, focused on public policy, featuring several inspiring speakers, including:
- Veronica Chapa Gorczynski, Executive Director of Early Matters
- Mandy Chapman Semple, Special Advisor to the Mayor for Homeless Initiatives for the City of Houston
- Abby Livingston, Washington Bureau Chief of the Texas Tribune
- Erin Muffoletto Baca, 2003 Scholar and President of Muffoletto Government Relations, LLC
The day concluded with a mayoral panel, during which the Honorable Steve Adler, Mayor of Austin; and the Honorable Annise Parker, Former Mayor of Houston, shared their insights as city leaders. Their panel was moderated by Marc Eichenbaum, 2000 Scholar and Special Assistant to the Mayor for Homelessness Initiatives for the city of Houston.
“A key message from today is that a lot of change is very local. And that doesn’t mean that it is a smaller problem to solve or an easier problem to solve, but that’s where it impacts individuals in their lives. People are affected in their neighborhoods, in their homes, and in their schools,” said Aaron Chadbourne, 2002 Coca-Cola Scholar and Senior Policy Advisor at the Office of the Governor for State of Maine.
Saturday was spent painting, mulching, writing thank you cards, and overall refreshing Austin’s Zavala Elementary School with United Way for Greater Austin. Zavala Elementary held special significance for 1991 Coca-Cola Scholar Tim McCallum because it is here he went to school. Tim generously cooked lunch for the whole group involved in the service day.
“Having grown up and becoming a Coke Scholar, and a father, and a husband, and to come back to place that you worked so hard, to get out of a neighborhood, only to find yourself wanting to come back and give back – my family would have been very proud,” Tim McCallum, said 1991 Coca-Cola Scholar and President and CEO of Raze Media.
To celebrate the end of the project, Scholars surprised Zavala’s principal with backpacks, clothes, and a $1,500 donation for books from My Own Book, an organization created by 2006 Scholar Kyle Baldwin.
“It just makes us feel so special and loved that people who don’t know us, don’t know the students, took time out of their busy lives, their busy schedules, away from their family and friends, to come here and help improve our school,” said Nicole Anderson, Principal of Zavala Elementary School.
Attendees headed to University of Texas at Austin’s Alumni Center for an opening session with Daron Roberts, 1991 Scholar and Founding Director at the Center for Sports Leadership and Innovation. Daron inspired Scholars to “start where they are” and make change happen today.
Kevin Byrne, Managing Director of US Programs of the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, Julie Gehrki, 1997 Scholar and Senior Director of the Walmart Foundation, and Jane Hale Hopkins, Executive Vice President of the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation, discussed effective philanthropy in organizations.
Adan Gonzalez, founder of the Si Se Puede Network, followed, and shared more about the founding of his organization, which helps to provide advice to students to work for academic success, encourage volunteering, and helps people grow into leadership positions.
Scholars ended the conference by making service pledges that would impact their community once they return home.
“We don’t want to just serve the community, but we want to inspire others to also make a change,” Rima Patel, 2013 Coca-Cola Scholar, said.
The 2016 Coca-Cola Service Summit in Austin is the second event of its kind — the first Service Summit was held in Miami the year before. The event is an initiative of the Coca-Cola Scholars Alumni Advisory Board, who looks forward to hosting Service Summits annually.