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2024 Coca-Cola Scholars Banquet Remarks

As Prepared for Delivery on April 25, 2024, by

Jane Hale Hopkins

President, Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation

Wow! What an amazing start for tonight’s celebration…and for our 2024 class of Coke Scholars!

On behalf of all of us at the Scholars Foundation, let me thank you all for taking the time and making the effort to be with us.

It means so much to have you here as dedicated members of this community, which has been enriching lives and unleashing leaders for good for more than 35 years.

{Response to musical number above}

Before I go any further, let me take a moment to talk about what we just experienced and the people who made it happen.

Tonight’s video came together as a collaborative effort of diverse artists and technical wizards from all over the country, including 10 Coca-Cola Scholar alumni.

Our wonderful director, producer and ringleader – and a real joy to work with – is founder of L.A-based Run, Jump, Fly creative services, 1992 Scholar David Groom.

The film’s original and inspiring musical score was composed by 2020 Coca-Cola Scholar Annika Huprikar. Let me point out – that means she is a senior in college!

The musicians who brought Annika’s composition to life – in the film and on stage here tonight – are all Coca-Cola Scholar alumni.

On Cello, 2016 Scholar Nathan Chiu.

On Clarinet, 2019 Scholar Danny Hong.

On Viola, 2018 Scholar Kylie Kalinowski.

On Obo and Saxophone, 1994 Scholar Seth Shelden.

On Violin, 2021 Scholar Kynnedy Smith.

And on Cello and Piano, 2020 Scholar Henry Wu.

But wait… that’s not all! Performing the film’s voice-over was another Scholar, from 1991, Jason Shanker. And our masterful Recording Engineer was 2005 Coke Scholar Christian Amonson.

What a testament to the magic Coca-Cola Scholars can create!

As a community, we wanted to do something very special to honor the 150 young leaders joining us tonight. Scholars, you are the reason we do what we do. And you are the reason we’re all here tonight.

To the class of 2024, I know you’ve done so much and overcome so much to be here tonight. With hard work, dedication and perseverance, you’ve distinguished yourselves in the classroom. With passion, creativity and selflessness, you’ve made a difference in the lives of others, near and far.

You’ve dared to dream big. You’ve followed through. And you’ve kept rising and reaching for more. Tonight, you’ve reached a new summit of accomplishment.

So, I want you to take a moment. Look around. Take a deep breath. Smile. And take it all in. Be proud of what you’ve done. Where you’ve been. Where you’ve arrived. And where you’re going.

And take a moment to remember those who helped you along the way. Your parents. Siblings. Grandparents. Family and Friends. Neighbors. Teachers. Clergy. Coaches. Mentors and Shapers of all kinds.

The truth is… none of us gets where we’re going alone. Everyone in this room is here because we had help. We all need the love and support of others. We need guidance. We need encouragement. We need understanding and compassion.

In this, I’m preaching to the choir. You’re here, after all, because you’re already this kind of person… these kinds of people.

In time, You will change. You will grow. You will become an even better version of yourself. But never forget who you are in this moment. Change will come.

And that’s all well and good. Better than all well and good, in fact. Because it is the story of growing up. The story of being more and doing more. The story, if we’re doing it right, of life itself.

And, like so much of life, this is a two-way street. We give and we receive. With openness. Authenticity. Kindness. And a big-heartedness that puts others’ needs before our own.

We are, first and foremost, a scholarship organization. This year, more than a hundred thousand students applied to become Coca-Cola Scholars. And we were honored to consider each one.

In the end, though, we had to select just 150 applicants as Scholars. This means our acceptance rate is less than zero point one five percent. I’ll state the obvious here…That’s really small.

For comparison…This year, Harvard’s acceptance rate was 3.6 percent…24 times greater…making this class of Coke Scholars a pretty special group.

Ultimately, you were chosen because we believe in you and your potential. And we are delighted to be able to invest in your future.

In time, I trust you’ll find, like other Scholars before you, that we are also building a community of leaders. As human beings, we are wired for community and connection.

And tonight represents the start of something more…you’re also crossing the threshold into a community we hope will be part of your life for decades to come.

This weekend, you’ll meet all kinds of people. From different places and different backgrounds. With different experiences and perspectives. And that’s great. Because, in getting to know others and becoming known by them, we gain knowledge and understanding and grace.

Meanwhile, you’ll also find you have much in common. Outsized dreams and drives. Aspirations to grow and give back and leave your mark on a better community, a better country and a better world.

This weekend, dreams will be shared. Plans will be hatched. And new friendships will begin.

As Coca-Cola Scholars, you embody and spread the timeless values of the Coca-Cola brand and the Coke system. Optimism. Positivity. Joy. And bringing people together. Here and around the world. And you refresh others along the way.

Indeed, we believe you, as Scholars, are the not-so-secret formula behind the enduring strength of this community, this family… really. It’s your passion, your commitment, your engagement and your friendship that make all the difference.

We’ve heard this again and again over the years, Scholars tell us that being connected to this community moves and motivates you to dream bigger and do bigger for others. One moment. One action. One person at a time. With kindness and love.

Coca-Cola Scholars, you are the kind of people eager to see and seize a better future. Not for some but for all. And we couldn’t be more pleased to be part of your journey.

Thank you very much!

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