Thursday marks a favorite night for associates at the Coca-Cola Company and kicks-off what can only be described as a life-changing weekend for 250 high school seniors from across the country: The Coca-Cola Scholarship Foundation (CCSF) Scholar’s weekend.

Sixteen years ago, I was one of those eager, bright-eyed seniors just chosen as a Coke Scholar.  I couldn’t quite believe that I was being flown to Atlanta for a weekend of celebrations, festivities, and interviews.

Frankly, I kept waiting for someone to tell me there had been some sort of awful mistake and that I didn’t belong among those other incredibly talented students. 

What I didn’t know then and what I am entirely thankful for now is how much more the CCFS gave to me than just a scholarship. I made friends on my first Scholar’s weekend that I am still in touch with today. I met inspiring people poised to tackle the world’s biggest challenges. I joined a network of talented, high-achieving alumni – truly a unique and elite fraternity. And I definitely couldn’t have known that years later, CCSF would encourage me to apply for a job where I would begin a new career, a new adventure, in a new city, and return to the Company that believed in me so long ago.

Rosalyn Kennedy on stage at 2012 Coke Scholars Banquet

When people ask me what it’s like working for Coke, I tell them even though I am new to the Company as an employee, my connection began long ago, when I was a high school senior and the Coca-Cola Company identified me as someone to believe in, to invest in, to support, to nurture and ultimately to welcome me with open arms.

This Company took a chance on me when I was a just a kid.  Today, I’m very proud to be one of the 5,000 alumni celebrating the 25th anniversary of CCSF. It continues to support and empower young students annually… to the astounding tune of $51 million to date.

To all the young students here for this weekend’s events, here’s what I can tell you. There’s been no mistake. You belong here. We are so proud of you and so excited about all that you will accomplish. Welcome to the family.

Rosalyn Menon Kennedy is a Coca-Cola Scholar, Class of 1997 and Director of Corporate External Affairs for the Coca-Cola Company.

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