Reflections from the 2023 Coca-Cola Scholars Leadership Summit
What is magic?
Is it fairy dust?
A white rabbit appearing from a black hat?
A spell cast by Harry Potter or the Sanderson sisters?
I delved into this question while in Atlanta for the 4th Coca-Cola Scholars Leadership Summit. A gathering of Coke Scholar alumni, everyone in attendance had won a college scholarship from the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation when high school seniors. I received mine in 1996, and looking around the Summit venue, I saw Scholars from the very first class in 1989, 2001, 2015 – even college freshmen from the most recent class.
The theme of the Summit was “Unleash Your Magic.” I’ve attended the previous three Leadership Summits in 2008, 2013, and 2018, and every time I’m amazed at the breadth of this community. Over 6,000 members strong, the Coke Scholars network is indeed a supernatural source of inspiration, change, and impact.
A Source of Magic
My experience within the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation community embodies Webster’s definition of magic, “an extraordinary power or influence seemingly from a supernatural source.” Even bigger than the unlimited love and beverages that Lena Kalandjian (2022) mentions on her Instagram.
As a Coke Scholar, I’ve witnessed and been a part of something truly extraordinary. Our community comprises scholarship recipients from diverse backgrounds with common characteristics: academic excellence, active school involvement, unwavering passion, a service-oriented mindset, and a profound commitment to bettering their communities.
Whether it’s JT Batson (2001) expanding the presence of soccer in the United States, Ro Catalano Flury (1990) sharing her grandmother’s inspiring story through a documentary, or Michael Solomon (1992) recounting his triumphant journey of learning to walk again, Coca-Cola Scholars have made their mark in various industries.
From nonprofit and philanthropy to startups and politics, from creative endeavors to life-saving initiatives, Coke Scholars are involved, and their impact is nothing short of magical.
The mission of the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation is to amplify the impact of exceptional leaders through scholarships, lifelong learning, and a robust community of mission-driven changemakers. This mission is the crucible of the magic that Scholars produce in their everyday lives.
Connecting, Inspiring, and Engaging
At the Leadership Summit, we came together to connect, inspire, and engage. I had the privilege of reconnecting with fellow 1996 Scholars, sharing memories, and celebrating our shared journey. The summit inspired me profoundly, particularly during a town hall meeting where Aaron Chadbourne (2002) urged us not to become great at something we don’t love doing. This powerful message emphasized the importance of passion and purpose in our pursuits. Rounding out that idea, Daron K. Roberts (1997) encouraged Scholars not to be trapped by the idea of purpose, and to think about not what we want to be, but who we want to be.
Moreover, engaging conversations with Scholars I hadn’t met before, like Max Wenzel (2022), highlighted the joy of serendipitous connections. We discovered that we were both adopted as infants, reinforcing the idea that magic often lies in the shared human experiences that unite us.
Unleashing Your Unique Magic
The concept of magic is not limited to our collective impact as Coca-Cola Scholars. It extends to each individual’s journey. Magic is about discovering your unique talents, passions, and potential and using them to make a positive difference, impacting the people in your neighborhood or the entire world, changing someone’s day or future generations. It’s about recognizing that each of us possesses a supernatural source of power—the power to effect change, inspire others, and leave a lasting legacy.
As Coke Scholars, we have the tools and resources to unlock and unleash our magic. Through scholarship, mentorship, and a vibrant community, we can explore our passions, pursue our dreams, and amplify our impact. The Leadership Summit serves as a reminder that we are responsible for tapping into our magic, both for our growth and for the betterment of society.
In essence, magic, as exemplified by the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation and its community, is the extraordinary power that emerges when exceptional individuals come together with a shared purpose. It’s the influence we wield to bring about positive change, the inspiration we draw from one another, and the engagement that fuels our lifelong journeys as changemakers.
Magic is not merely a concept of fantasy but a tangible force that exists within each of us. When unleashed, it’s a force that can transform lives, communities, and the world. So, let us continue to embrace our magic and work together to create a better future, for we are Magic Makers. We are Coke Scholars!
Courtney Lynn is a 1996 Coca-Cola Scholar and currently a Sr. Partner Education & Enablement Manager for Updater. As a digital nomad, Courtney is enjoying traveling around the globe, connecting with as many fellow Coke Scholars as possible, and carving out time to serve in her favorite role as “Coco” to her nephews and nieces. Courtney is also a dedicated Red Cross volunteer and blood donor from the first time she donated at the age of 16. If she’s not on a plane, you can find her snapping photos, in a Pilates class, or in a movie theater.