Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation
The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation, or the CCSF, is a non-profit organization that works on behalf and at the direction of the Coca-Cola system (including The Coca-Cola Company, the world's largest producer of non-alcoholic beverages, and its many subsidiaries) to provide scholarships to some 1,400 students annually in amounts totaling over $3.4 million each year. Based in Atlanta, Georgia, the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation has the stated mission to "provide scholarship programs and enrichment opportunities in support of exceptional young peoples' thirst for knowledge and their desire to make a difference in the world." The CCSF was founded in 1986, and since its inception has helped fund the college education of more than 4,500 Coca-Cola Scholars with over $41 million. According to the CCSF, however, their vision is much broader than just helping fund a college education. They hope to "develop a powerful network of community leaders, touched by Coca−Cola, whose vision will help shape the world, leaving a lasting legacy for generations to come." The Coca-Cola Scholarships are meant to "reward leadership and excellence as exemplified through academic achievement and extracurricular activities, including commitment to community service."
As Coca-Cola was approaching its centennial in 1986, leaders in the bottling industry decided to make a large financial gift that then became the Coca-Cola Scholars Program. In its first year, 150 graduating seniors planning on attending college were awarded four-year grants. Later, those grants grew into $20,000 scholarships for 50 students annually and $10,000 scholarships for another 200 students annually ($5,000/year for 4 years and $2,500/year for four years respectively). Now, Coca-Cola awards $20,000 grants for 150 rising college freshman annually. Coca-Cola Scholars often refer to their bond with other scholars fondly, calling themselves a "family" or a "community," frequently engaging in service activities, social reunions, and offering internship and employment opportunities to younger scholars.
Typically, the Foundation receives between 85,000 and 110,000 applications, from which 2,500 are selected as semi-finalists. Regional representation across the United States is considered in this step.
The 2,500 Semi-Finalists are then asked to complete a written application to select approximately 250 Finalists. From this stage, Finalists complete interviews to select 150 Coca-Cola Scholars. Scholars are invited to Atlanta for Coca-Cola Scholars Weekend, a programmed weekend focused on leadership development and service. These students also participate in group sessions conducted by community leaders and alumni of the Coca-Cola Scholars Program.
In order to be eligible for a Coca−Cola Scholarship, one must be a current high school or home-school senior planning to graduate from a school or program in the United States during the academic year in which application is made. Additionally, students must be U.S. Citizens, U.S. Nationals, U.S. Permanent Residents, Temporary Residents (legalization program), Refugees, Asylee, Cuban-Haitian Entrants, or Humanitarian Parolees. Furthermore, they must plan to pursue a degree at an accredited U.S. post-secondary institution and carry a minimum 3.00 GPA at the end of your junior year of high school. Applicants may not be children or grandchildren of employees, officers, or owners of Coca−Cola bottling companies, The Coca−Cola Company or any other bottler or Company divisions or subsidiaries.
Notable Coca-Cola Scholars
Elise Stefanik, U.S. Representative from New York
Paula Broadwell, Military scholar and author
Katrina Shankland, Wisconsin state representative
Nadya Okamoto, social entrepreneur and activist
Neha Gupta, founder of Empower Orphans and recipient of the Children's International Peace Prize