Last April, the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation (CCSF) virtually honored their 2021 Coca-Cola Scholars, 150 outstanding high school seniors from across the country selected to receive a $20,000 college scholarship. Less than 1/6th of 1% of applicants were chosen to receive this extremely competitive award.
The April 15 event, attended by the new Scholars, program alumni, champions from the Coca-Cola system, and dedicated sponsors, highlighted the incredible achievements of the 33rd class and the legacy of the program, which has awarded over $75 million to more than 6,450 Coke Scholars since 1989.
The evening began with a video that captured the moment when 5 of the new Scholars found out that they’d been selected as members of this year’s class.
KaLa Keaton in Raleigh, NC; Ria Shah in Hoover, AL; Nick Simpson in Carlsbad, CA; Da’Vion Tatum in Houston, TX; and Brittany Torro in Tewksbury, MA, were all surprised by their local Coca-Cola bottlers: Coca-Cola Consolidated, Coca-Cola UNITED, Reyes Coca-Cola Bottling, Coca-Cola Southwest Beverages, and Coca-Cola Beverages Northeast.
The theme of the event was “Bold. Brave. Now.”
“As Ghandi said, you become the change you want to see in the world. You’re agents of change and truth and light. Shining in the dark and lighting our way forward.” Jane Hopkins, President of CCSF, said to the new class of Scholars.
Kirk Tyler, CCSF Board Chair and Chairman & CEO of the Atlantic Bottling Company, virtually presented the new class to the audience.
“Tonight, I want to thank you for applying to become a Coke Scholar. Even more importantly, I want to thank you for giving of yourself. And in doing so, making stronger your families, your communities and our country,” he said.
Ballerina, author, and philanthropist Misty Copeland and chef, restaurateur, and humanitarian José Andrés were featured speakers and interviewed by 2006 Scholar Ashley Chang. The pair shared their incredible stories and advice for the high school seniors as they neared graduation.
“Buckle your seatbelt! Things are not going to work out the way you imagine them, but it’s going to be exciting.” Misty said, and “Impress yourself. Look at the mirror and be proud of yourself. Challenge yourself.” José said.
Karyn Harrington, 1997 Scholar and Global Vice President of Internal & Leadership Communications at the The Coca-Cola Company, shared that the Coca-Cola Scholars Program had a profound effect on her personally and professionally.
“I believe the Scholars program embodies our company’s purpose: to refresh the world and make a difference. It’s a purpose that’s possible because of the special partnership between our company and local bottlers across the country.” she said.
Seven of the new Coke Scholars shared how they are making a difference in their communities and beyond via video.
The video featured Sikirat Mustapha from New York City, NY; Yaseen El-Demerdash from Overland Park, KS; Kenzie Hinson from Mount Olive, NC; Lily Chen from Basking Ridge, NJ; Aditya Bora from Johns Creek, GA; Karson Baldwin from Strongsville, OH; and Salvador Gómez-Colón from San Juan, PR.
The celebration shined a light on collaborations between Coke Scholars, including a book that features the stories of 40 inspiring alumni, and an original musical and artistic performance. From a single beat started by one Scholar in Sweden, 18 Scholar artists from all around the globe created their interpretation, with each piece building to create the finished performance.
The evening showcased the unique spirit of the Coca-Cola Scholars Program, which selects young leaders who are making the world a better place.
“The past year has brought new challenges to people across this country and around the world. Coca-Cola Scholars have been there. They’ve led the way to help friends, neighbors, and strangers. To lend support. Lend a shoulder. Lend a hand. And help people find hope.” said Jane Hopkins.
The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation celebrates and empowers visionary leaders who are refreshing the world. With its 33rd class of Coca-Cola Scholars, the Foundation has provided more than $75 million in scholarships to over 6,450 program alumni who together have become a powerful force for positive change.