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Celebrating Scholar Connections

Every year, Coca-Cola Scholars who gather for Scholars Weekend connect with their peers, often making lifelong friendships in the process. Other Scholars meet by chance after Scholars weekend is over—in college, at internships, out in the work world. Ten Scholars (that we know of!) have even married a fellow Scholar. In celebration of National Friendship Week earlier this month, meet some of those Scholars whose lives have been touch by the connections they’ve made.

Katie Comer (2009) and Gwen Baumgardner (2010)

Gwen Baumgardner and Katie ComerWhen Katie began her summer internship as a marketing intern at the State Farm corporate headquarters in Bloomington, Illinois, she immediately connected with her summer roommate and fellow intern, Gwendolyn Baumgardner. For the first two weeks of their internship, they had no idea they were both Coca-Cola Scholars.

Then, one day, they each were sitting on their beds typing away on their laptops. “Normally we would be chatting, laughing, or listening to music, but we were both really involved in what we were working on,” Katie says. Gwendolyn said she was working on a Coca-Cola Scholarship report; Katie said she was doing the same thing. They couldn’t believe they hadn’t made the connection before!

When their summer internship ended recently, Katie and Gwen realized how close they had grown. “It is amazing how a small connection like being a Coca-Cola Scholar can immediately give you a network of individuals who are passionate about the same things you are,” Katie says.

Erin Orchard (2011) and Christian Bennett (2011)

Erin and ChristianErin and Christian met as high school sophomores at the Utah Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Conference (HOBY), but it wasn’t until they attended the world HOBY conference in Washington D.C. that they became friends. After that, they would help one another prepare for interviews and speeches and get together for community service activities. Christian came to Erin’s ice skating shows to support her. In their free time, they bonded by hanging out at one another’s houses, exploring Salt Lake City, and going out to eat. When they both found out they were selected as 2011 Coca-Cola Scholars, they were thrilled.

After Scholars weekend, the two were staff leaders at the Utah HOBY conference and traveled to watch another Scholar-friend, Cragun Liston (2011), speak at his graduation. As they prepared for college, Christian and Erin read each other’s college essays and gave one another advice.

When the night to decide where they were going to college came, they stayed on the phone for three hours helping each other sort out the decision. Erin chose the University of Denver, and Christian went to Harvard. Although they are 2,500 miles from each other, they still find time to stay in touch, and Erin even visited Christian at Harvard this past year. Even their families have become friends. “Christian is one of those people I can call anytime or any day and talk about anything with. I am confident we’ll be friends forever,” Erin says.

Alydaar and StevenAlydaar Rangwala (2011) and Steven Wang (2011)

Alydaar and Steven connected at Scholar’s weekend and again at Harvard’s visiting weekend in April 2011, then found out they would be freshman roommates at Harvard College last year. “We became great friends and will be living together for the next three years,” Alydaar says. “Being Coke Scholars definitely brought us closer together.” Both Alydaar and Steven are looking forward to giving back and getting to know more Scholars in the future.

Camille Scales Young (1990) and Dr. April Lee Ulmer (1990)

After meeting during Scholars weekend, Camille and April each went their separate ways—until 17 years later, when Camille recognized April’s photo in the local newspaper. Since then, the two have become close friends and are even in the same Sunday school class and supper club.

Courtney Lynn and Jeannine BellCourtney Lynn (1996) and Jeannine Bell (1998)

Courtney and Jeannine connected when Courtney volunteered during the 1998 Scholars weekend. Jeannine was planning to attend Emory; Courtney was entering her junior year at the University of North Carolina. The two stayed in touch through mail, phone, and email and even visited each other. When Courtney attended Emory for graduate school, the two saw even more of each other. Since then, they stay in touch through phone calls, letters, and Facebook. Recently, Jeannine traveled to Minneapolis (where Courtney now lives) for work, and the two were able to catch up in-person again.

Michael, Jackie, and SheelMichael Tubbs (2008), Jackie Rotman (2008), and Sheel Tyle (2008)

Michael, Jackie, and Sheel met during Scholars weekend and entered Stanford together that fall. They’ve supported each other as Michael ran for Stockton City Council this year, as Jackie’s nonprofit Everybody Dance Now! was featured on America’s Best Dance Crew in 2010 and began its expansion to 12 cities, and as Sheel started an exciting career in venture capital. Whether they’re in Washington D.C., South Africa, New York, California, or elsewhere, the three friends have stayed in touch and contributed so much to each other’s college experiences and lives.

Tracey Hong (2009), Esther Yu (2009), and Marwah Shahid (2009)

Tracey Hong, Esther Yu, and Marwah Shahid“I’ve been very fortunate to have two Coke Scholars as best friends and inspirations in my life,” Tracey says. Tracey and Esther grew up going to the same Chinese school and have been best friends since middle school. “She has one of the sharpest and most creative minds of anyone that I’ve ever met,” Tracey adds.

Tracey Hong, Esther Yu, and Marwah ShahidTracey met Marwah at Scholars Weekend, and they decided to room together at  Vanderbilt University. They’ve been living together for three years now, and Tracey says she’s lucky to have Marwah in her life. “Not only is she kind-hearted and charismatic, she’s also dedicated and passionate about making our world a better place.”

Caitlin Crommet (2011) and Christina Gutierrez (2011)

Caitlin Crommet and Christina GutierrezCaitlin and Christina first met while interviewing for the Hesburgh-Yusko Scholarship at the University of Notre Dame. Soon thereafter, the two realized they were both Coca-Cola Scholarship finalists. By the time Scholars Weekend arrived, both Caitlin and Christina had decided to attend Notre Dame. “We knew we had a friend in each other once we got there,” Caitlin says. “That made heading to college as freshmen less intimidating!”

During their freshman year, Caitlin and Christina became better friends as the football season (one of Notre Dame’s hallmarks) progressed. After each home game, the girls hung out. They bonded so much that they decided to room together for their sophomore year. “We’re both so glad we found our best friend even before getting to school, and we are excited for what the next three years hold for us!” Caitlin says.

Do you have a special connection with another Coke Scholar? If so, tell us about it below.