Last week, the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation welcomed the 24th Class of Coca-Cola Scholars into a family that will last a lifetime. These 253 high school seniors are characterized by their academic excellence, community leadership and most importantly, their desire to make the world a better place.
This year’s class of Scholars represents 248 U.S. high schools across all 50 states, selected from more than 80,000 applicants. Fifty of these Scholars will receive four-year $20,000 scholarships and 200 will receive four-year scholarships.
Since its founding 26 years ago through a partnership between the U.S. Coca-Cola bottling community and The Coca-Cola Company, the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation (CCSF) has provided more than $48 million in scholarships to 5,000 students nationwide. Last year, in honor of Coca-Cola’s 125th Anniversary, system leaders helped ensure this legacy will continue when they announced a pledge of $25 million in new funding to the Foundation.
Celebrating Young Difference-Makers
The celebration of this year’s class of Coca-Cola Scholars began last Thursday with a special ceremony uniting more than 1,100 leaders, partners, friends and family of Coca-Cola including Chairman and CEO Muhtar Kent, CEO of Coca-Cola Bottling Company United/CCSF Chairman Claude Nielsen, Georgia First Lady Sandra Deal, UN Ambassador Andrew Young and special guest, world renowned actor and philanthropist Morgan Freeman.
During the event, the Scholars were recognized in a procession and then spent time amongst all of the guests, sharing stories of how they have already been working to change their communities for the better, from volunteering with local charitable organizations to starting up some of their own cause-related programs.
A centerpiece of the event was a special on-stage Q&A between Kent and Freeman featuring questions submitted by the Scholars. The Oscar-award winning actor, who spent extra time with the Scholars before the ceremony, discussed his journey to professional acclaim, his passionate support of education and the importance of following your dreams. He left the Scholars with these final words: “Just don’t stop – if you don’t ever quit, I guarantee, you’re going to get there.”
Kent wrapped up the evening with more words of encouragement for the fearless young leaders, as he told them with confidence, “You have the power to change the world forever.”
An Enduring Commitment to CommunityTo acknowledge the special commitment to community that all Coca-Cola Scholars share, each year the new class participates in a community service project during their weekend in Atlanta. As a perfect way to celebrate Earth Month, the Scholars painted 75 rain barrels (55-gallon syrup concentrate drums donated by Coca-Cola) for water conservation. Twenty of the barrels will be auctioned off on eBay with proceeds going to the 2012 Coca-Cola Scholars Leadership Summit and the rest will be donated to local charities and schools.
For the first time, Coca-Cola Scholar Alumni and their Coca-Cola families across the country joined in this tradition by organizing local community service events of their own. As part of the first “Coca-Cola Scholars National Day of Service,” 17 events are taking place across our U.S. regions, ranging from rain barrel workshops to beach clean-ups to active healthy living activities. More than 500 Coca-Cola Scholar Alumni are participating along with hundreds more Coca-Cola employees, partners, friends and families.
A Connection That Lasts a Lifetime
When they arrive on college campuses across the country this fall, the 24th class of Coca-Cola Scholars will be welcomed by upperclassmen who share the same distinction. And after they graduate, they will join an extended family of more than 5,000 Coca-Cola Scholar Alumni who stay connected through regional councils and special events. They also stay in touch with their local Coca-Cola bottling facilities to organize community service efforts and make an even greater impact together.
This lasting connection, camaraderie and sense of family sets the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation apart from other scholarship programs.
“Our goal is to foster enrichment opportunities and continue our relationships with these students not only through their four years of college, but many years later as they start their careers and become leaders in their communities,” said Mark Davis, President of CCSF. “Scholars tell us that while the money is great, the relationships they form are more valuable than anything else. Because of our incredible Coca-Cola family in the U.S., mentorships often lead to job opportunities, and connections create community service opportunities and lifelong friendships. I’m proud and humbled to be part of such a powerful program.”