Coke Scholars Doing Good in the Midst of the Global Pandemic
Coca-Cola Scholars are 6,300+ diverse leaders around the world. Their passion and determination to lead change that positively affects others unites them, and this passion has burned even brighter during this global pandemic.
For the second installment of the #CokeScholarsCare series, we’re excited to introduce you to Tejas, Sravya, Shalva, Ellie, and Steven – 5 Coke Scholars who are taking action to improve the lives of others.
Meet the Scholars featured in the first #CokeScholarsCare post – Manraj, Sunny, Jillian, Aakshi, Siddharth, Abe, Jason, Emma, and Yannie – here.
2017 Coca-Cola Scholar
Founder of EndingCOVID
It started with a simple donation.
Tejas Sekhar had competed at the 2020 Teach For America Social Innovation Challenge, winning first place and $2,000 with a solution to help tackle food insecurity and achieve better overall community health in the West and South Sides of Chicago. Inspired by the socially-conscious competition, Tejas used the prize money to buy over 100 face shields for a hospital in his hometown of St. Louis.
“Soon I realized the need in the community was far more expansive than just the one hospital I was able to donate to. I knew there was more that I could do.” said Tejas.
Tejas founded EndingCOVID, a nonprofit that distributes resources to health care workers, essential workers, and other vulnerable groups. The nonprofit provides PPE, like face shields and masks, to help minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19 as well as toiletries and non-perishable groceries to help ensure that people in community shelters and nursing homes are safe and protected.
The nonprofit has recently expanded their entirely student-led team and service area, now helping people in St. Louis, Chicago, Boston, Miami, Indianapolis, South Bend, and Raleigh, and have raised and distributed over $7,500 worth of resources.
“Having grown up just 15 minutes away from Ferguson, MO, I am acutely aware of the segregated nature of many cities such as my hometown of St. Louis. Beyond the disparity in the racial makeup of such segregated cities, there are unequal opportunities and distributions of wealth, education, and food/healthcare access. I hope EndingCOVID can help address some of these inequities.” said Tejas.
Learn more about EndingCOVID and join their mission here.
2013 Coca-Cola Scholar
Co-founder of Ace It!
When the pandemic began, Sravya saw an opportunity to help students in an area that is close to her heart: educational achievement.
Pre-COVID, she served as a tutor and consultant, helping students with standardized testing, high school planning, college consulting, and college applications outside of her full time job at Microsoft as a Product Manager on Windows 10X. She co-founded Ace It, previously known as Get Ahead Tutor, and with her team has tutored over 120 students to high scores and admittance to tier one colleges and full-ride programs.
When schools began shutting down, she saw the need to expand their reach and services.
“I want to help students reach their full potential even if they couldn’t afford or get access to these resources in-person. Without having a guidance counselor to provide a path forward or advice, this process can be very overwhelming for not only students but families,” Sravya said.
Ace It began offering a free 3-week, 8-session crash course on the SATs and ACTs. Students learned the differences between the two exams and covered concept areas that are tested over Zoom, utilizing polls and break out rooms to look at practice questions and take concepts into practice.
In addition to positive reviews, participants shared another growing need – resume reviews.
“We heard lots of feedback from our students in the program that they wanted to create a resume but had no idea how. So, we put together an easy 3-step process that includes a resume tutorial video, a resume template, and a red line edit from us to make sure the content is clean and impressive,” Sravya said.
Since the pandemic began, Ace It has partnered with school districts across Seattle, San Antonio, and Louisville in addition to reaching over 300 students in 15+ countries. While their outreach is focused on underserved communities, any student may access their resources.
Now, they’re bringing artificial intelligence in to the mix to systemize and scale their offerings even further after receiving $10,000 through the First Act Fund from Coding It Forward – an organization that coincidentally was co-founded by two of fellow Coke Scholars, Neel Mehta (2016) and Athena Kan (2013).
“Imagine attending our crash course and synchronously having a chat bot effectively and accurately answer your questions. Can we leverage AI to learn to edit resumes so we don’t need a mass amount of tutors or consultants to help as many people as possible? By using tech in these unique ways, we hope to lower costs so college prep is affordable and accessible to everyone,” said Sravya.
Learn more about Ace It and access their free resources here.
2017 Coca-Cola Scholar
Director of Media Strategy of Corona Connects
When the pandemic began, Shalva found herself in a situation that may could relate to – she wanted to help, but wasn’t sure how.
Through a friend at her college (University of Pennsylvania) who co-founded the organization, Shalva joined the mission of Corona Connects, which is an online platform that seamlessly connects volunteers with COVID-related volunteer opportunities in just a matter of seconds.
Corona Connects was created in response to the unprecedented level of need presented by the pandemic and the struggle to identify and connect with organizations in need of volunteers. It removes this barrier to make it easy for people to help their communities.
In under 1 minute, people can find a way to help by filtering volunteer opportunities according to interests, location and availability. For those who represent an organization, they can submit volunteer needs and recruit volunteers.
“As soon as I heard about their work, I knew I wanted to get involved. It has truly revolutionized the volunteering experience for volunteers and organizations alike, and is a win-win for everyone!” Shalva said.
The initiative is led by 25 college students across the country, and Shalva serves as the Director of Media Strategy. Through strategizing marketing initiatives, garnering press coverage, and engaging online influencers and community organizers, she works to spread the word about their mission to further expand their impact.
Corona Connects currently lists 330 volunteer opportunities across 23 states, and are adding more every day. To date, the group has reached over 11,000 people and has facilitated 8200+ volunteer opportunities through their platform. They even have a high school ambassador program, aiming to engage the younger generation in community service.
“I’m so proud of how far we’ve come in just a matter of a few short months, thanks to the outstanding work of our extraordinarily dedicated and talented team. COVID spreads through droplets, but you can spread kindness through connecting at coronaconnects.org!” Shalva said.
2003 Coca-Cola Scholar
Director of Sales at Sunrise Senior Living
Since the pandemic began, one of the most vulnerable populations has been seniors. How could they receive quality care and be kept safe at the same time?
This was the problem Ellie Kirke faced as Director of Sales for Sunrise Senior Living at East 56th in New York City.
“Working with seniors and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life.” Ellie said.
While quarantined in their homes, Ellie and team had to work together to find creative ways to best serve the seniors in their New York City community who were desperately in need. They not only contacted their network of community healthcare partners and local food delivery services, but also researched options for getting other vital provisions to seniors who were under quarantine.
Ellie helped compile a comprehensive resource guide with senior-specific activities and virtual experiences to help seniors stay connected and engaged while isolated and has spent time listening, learning and letting them know that they are not alone.
“I recently received an email from an elderly gentleman that said ‘I’m scared. I can’t leave my apartment, I’m running out of food and can’t get to the pharmacy and have no family, please help.’ I immediately connected with him and while on the phone, he was in tears, so happy just to speak with someone, having been isolated in his home for weeks, and truly scared for his life,” Ellie said.
Using the resources they had collected, she was able to connect with a local volunteer organization helping with delivery to seniors in his area and was able to coordinate getting him the vital supplies he needed.
“I am thankful to be able to play a small role in helping our community of seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Ellie said.
2020 Coca-Cola Scholar
Product Manager at Coast
When state-wide shut-downs began, one of the businesses that suffered the most were restaurants. To safely continue providing food to patrons, many turned to take-out options.
Steven Wang, who leads product development at Coast, and team put their heads together to tackle this problem and created TakeoutCOVID, a platform that makes it easy for customers to support their local small businesses by centralizing up to date delivery and takeout info on an interactive map.
The group started in New York City and San Francisco, but have expanded to 26 cities across the country.
“Recognizing that COVID-19 is devastating local restaurants and bars who can no longer seat patrons, we wanted to create a free resource to find businesses that are now offering delivery and to-go options, including cocktails, wine, beer and meal-kits, many of whom are doing so for the first time. Local residents want to find ways to support their favorite establishments, but may not know who’s offering what during this time. TakeoutCOVID is meant to correct for that.” Steven said.
TakeoutCOVID’s been used by over 130,000 people to date and has helped many businesses make the transition to reopening for takeout and delivery. They currently have more than 18,000 small businesses in the platform.
To find local businesses to support or submit your business to be added to the map, visit TakeoutCOVID’s site here.
The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation celebrates and empowers visionary leaders who are refreshing the world. With its 32nd class of Coca-Cola Scholars, the Foundation has provided more than $70 million in scholarships to over 6,300 program alumni who together have become a powerful force for positive change.