Coke Scholars Ignite the Future at Leadership Summit

30 classes of scholarship recipients = 6,000+ rock star humans.

Now what?

Bring them together!

Thursday, September 27, 2018, Coke Scholars and alumni from the very first class in 1989 to the newly selected in 2018 traveled to Atlanta to connect, learn, and propel their collective desire to improve our world forward. The Coca-Cola Scholars Leadership Summit was the third event of its kind for the group, which spanned four days.

“We like to say that when you put Coca-Cola Scholars in a room together, magic happens and all of our lives are elevated as a result. There are so many conversations and ideas and solutions and questions being asked all simultaneously in one place.” said Jane Hale Hopkins, President-Elect and Executive Vice President.

Daria Torres (1992) and Cesar Aviles (2000) exchange ideas in a "meet the experts" discussion in the Scholars Connection Zone.

Daria Torres (1992) and Cesar Aviles (2000) exchange ideas in a “meet the experts” discussion in the Scholars Connection Zone.

Coca-Cola Scholars all have one thing in common – they were selected to receive a college scholarship from the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation as high school seniors in recognition not only of their excellent academics, but also their leadership in their school and community. Dedicated problem solvers, they identify a need and are committed to finding a solution.

After 30 years of the award, there are now over 6,000 Coke Scholars from ages 18-48, and they continue to improve their communities across the country. They also engage with each other and the Foundation, forming a powerful network of authentic leaders who are unleashing the power of positivity and optimism across the world.

Pamit Surana (1989) and Sarah Perkins (2007) discuss their application essays from when they were high school seniors.

Pamit Surana (1989) and Sarah Perkins (2007) discuss their application essays from when they were high school seniors.

“It’s so impressive that we have, across these years, so much in common with each other and so much to share with each other.” said Arthur Schmidt, 1990 Scholar.

To harness this collective energy, the Coca-Cola Scholars Alumni Advisory Board began planning Leadership Summits for Coke Scholars to learn from each other and discover ways to make a meaningful impact in their own lives and the communities in which they serve. The first was in 2008, the second in 2013, and the third in 2018.

Leadership Summit alumni Co-Chairs Alice Park (1999), Chad Little (1998), and Jany Brown (1992).

Leadership Summit Co-Chairs Alice Park (1999), Chad Little (1998), and Jany Brown (1992).

“The Leadership Summit started as a way to bring Coca-Cola Scholars together from all ages every five years to learn from each other, grow as leaders, and to connect with the Foundation and Coca-Cola system that invested in their future. Over the years it has grown into so much more. This community realizes they are an unstoppable force for good in the world and big things can happen when they come together.” said Carolyn Norton, CCSF Alumni Relations Manager

This year, the theme was Ignite Y(our) Story, a nod to the unique story that each Scholar has to share – a story about leadership, a story about service, and a story about Coca-Cola. The Summit encouraged Scholars to come back together to share their own individual stories and celebrate the group’s collective story as Coca-Cola Scholars.

“It was an honor and privilege to be able to serve the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation and my fellow Scholar peers in this capacity. How do you create a meaningful summit experience that inspires and engages Coca-Cola Scholars that span 30 years?  That was our biggest challenge, but I think we nailed it.” said Alice Park, Summit Co-Chair and Alumni Advisory Board member.

After Thursday night’s kick-off at the World of Coca-Cola, attendees enjoyed main stage sessions that inspired and breakthrough sessions, called #CokeScholarPro Labs, where Scholar “pros” taught valuable, tangible skills. Speakers included 2008 Scholar Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, 2012 Scholar and Miss America 2018 Cara Mund, and 1999 Scholar and award-winning playwright Katori Hall. See the full listing of powerhouse speakers.

Leadership Summit alumni Co-Chairs Alice Park (1999), Chad Little (1998), and Jany Brown (1992).

Jolene Loetscher (1997) leads a policy, politics, and media panel with Scott Jennings (1996), Mayor Michael Tubbs (2008), and Philip Rucker (2002).

The Summit provided a unique environment for Scholars to learn even outside of sessions in its interactive Scholars Connection Zone. This open area hosted quick “how-to” pop ups where Scholars shared pointers on topics ranging from networking to flower arranging, booths where Scholars could showcase their innovations, and games and creative corners.

Robert Jackson (2012) and Ericka Dunlap (2000) share a laugh in from the the Scholar Dream Wall, where Scholars would write a problem they wanted to solve, and others would reply with ideas or solutions.

Robert Jackson (2012) and Ericka Dunlap (2000) share a laugh in from the the Scholar Dream Wall, where Scholars would write a problem they wanted to solve, and others would reply with ideas or solutions.

“You come here and it’s like you’re refilling your battery. You’re meeting all of these people who are inspiring you again to remind you what you really care about and how you can pursue your goals.” said Aneri Kinariwalla, 2014 Scholar.

Friday night, Scholars flexed their creative muscles further, celebrating the milestone year with a 30th anniversary gala and several stunning Hamilton-inspired performances in the round.

Nilofer Rajpurkar (2013) joins fellow Scholars on stage for a Hamilton-esque performance at Friday's 30th Anniversary Gala.

Nilofer Rajpurkar (2013) joins fellow Scholars on stage for a Hamilton-esque performance at Friday’s 30th Anniversary Gala.

The gala also provided the perfect opportunity to celebrate the legacy of CCSF president, J. Mark Davis, who is retiring after 30 years of shaping one of the largest corporate-sponsored, achievement-based scholarship programs of its kind, which has awarded over $66 million in scholarships funded by The Coca-Cola Company and Coca-Cola bottlers.

In addition to the performances, several alumni took the stage to describe their “mailbox moment” of when they received the scholarship, and how it and Mark’s presence in their lives made an impact on the person they are today.

Looking to the future, Mark closed the gala by passing the reigns to Jane Hale Hopkins, CCSF President-Elect and EVP, accompanied by a standing ovation.

“The impact of this program is going to accelerate exponentially and so much of that, so much of that, is due to Jane pushing us to be a better organization, to be a more engaged organization, and to provide even more for our Scholars and our alumni.” said Mark.

Sunday’s sessions concluded with Jane sharing her vision for the Foundation and the next 30 years.

“What began as a simple transaction – a scholarship check – has blossomed into a transformational community, a grounding and foundation from which we grow and also from which we are all rooted together.

“When Scholars win their scholarship, they think it’s the opportunity of a lifetime, but I think what this community really represents is a lifetime of opportunity.” said Jane.

The Leadership Summit has ended, but the story continues as the Foundation and alumni look forward to welcoming the next group of young leaders to their ranks.

Current high school seniors can apply to be a part of the 31st class of Coca-Cola Scholars on the Foundation’s website through October 31, 2018.

 

The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation celebrates and empowers visionary leaders who are refreshing the world. With its 30th class of Coca-Cola Scholars, the Foundation has provided more than $66 million in scholarships to over 6,000 program alumni who together have become a powerful force for positive change.

Starting in August of 2018, students who are high school seniors may apply to be Coca-Cola Scholars through October 31, 2018. Learn more at www.coca-colascholars.org.