“Congratulations to the 2016 Class of Coca-Cola Scholars. It was an honor to be part of this year’s selection process. The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation has been instrumental to my life — not just because of the significant financial help with college, which was huge — but due in large part to the network of great scholars and the support of the Foundation, The Coca-Cola Company (including CEO Muhtar Kent, who personally champions Scholars and the Foundation) and local bottlers. Looking forward to continuing to build a dynamic community of Scholar alumni. Thrilled to welcome a new group of inspirational young people.” — Aaron Chadbourne

Education is a key to social mobility in the United States. Through hard work and dedication, you can become anything you want in this country. In the U.S., and around the world, the cost of higher education has been rising at alarming rates. As a result, financial obstacles often get in the way of educational opportunities that could otherwise enable students to pursue their aspirations.

The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation has helped over 5,550 outstanding high school students since their establishment in 1986, as a way for Coca-Cola Bottlers to give back to their local communities. The Foundation was established to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Coca−Cola and to establish a legacy for the education of tomorrow’s leaders through college scholarships. The Foundation invests in students who make the world a better place as socially-conscious and servant-minded leaders. The Foundation believes that leadership is essential not only in academics, but in the altruistic work of serving others. These students have all developed a passion for service from an early age that reflects in every action of their college and professional careers. The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation helps them amplify their impact even further by contributing $3.1 million in scholarships every year.

Aaron Chadbourne (left) with Coca-Cola Chairman and CEO Muhtar Kent and Christie Grymes, a Coca-Cola Scholar.

 

Aaron Chadbourne is a 2002 Coca-Cola Scholar who is committed to helping students access the same educational opportunities that the foundation has offered him. His continued involvement points to the interwoven community of scholars, stating in an article with the Daily Finance. “It’s not just a scholarship,” he writes. “It’s also a network of individuals.”

Earlier this year, he served on the Regional Interview Committee for the mid-Atlantic region of the United States. The Regional Interview Committee, plays an important role in selecting the next class of Coca-Cola Scholars, identifying finalists who will each receive a $20,000 college scholarship and attend a weekend-long celebration and leadership development workshop at The Coca-Cola Company headquarters in Atlanta. With so many exceptional candidates, narrowing down to the final list of Scholars was no easy feat.

“It was an honor to be asked by The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation to help select the next class of Coke Scholars,” Chadbourne said. “I am so inspired by the incredible ways these young people are already changing the world and improving their communities. I cannot wait to see what they accomplish in college and beyond.”

Chadbourne, the former chair of the Scholars Foundation’s Alumni Board, is currently Senior Policy Advisor to the Governor of Maine. He served alongside Rosita Najmi, a 2000 Coca-Cola Scholar who works on global financial inclusion issues for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Ericia Ward-Williams, a 14-year veteran of the Foundation who manages the scholar selection process.

Reflecting on why Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation remains important to him, Chadbourne said, “I was selected as a Coca-Cola Scholar back in high school. Since that time, the Coca-Cola Company and the many Coke Scholars I have developed relationships with have made a profound impact on me. Becoming a Scholar is about much more than the money for college – which is helpful – but it’s also about becoming part of a connected community of leaders driven to change the world for the better.”

Aaron Chadbourne is a senior policy advisor to the LePage Administration in Maine. Follow him on Twitter @aaronchadbourne.