Coca‑Cola Scholars are 6,300+ diverse leaders around the world. Their passion and determination to lead change that positively affects others unites them, and this passion has burned even brighter during this global pandemic.
Meet Manraj, Sunny, Jillian, Aakshi, Siddharth, Abe, Jason, Emma, and Yannie – 9 Scholars who are taking action to improve the lives of others.
Created by Coca‑Cola Scholars Manraj Singh (2012) and Sunny Sandhu (2016), the Digital Health Connectivity Project is a nonprofit that works to design, deliver, and sustain high-impact projects to tackle the most pressing healthcare challenges faced by under-served populations. Jillian Ross (2012), a medical student at Howard University College of Medicine and a Regional Lead for the nonprofit, is a member of their 15-person team of experts that stretch across tech, innovation, and healthcare.
Their top initiative, Connect for COVID-19, collects smart devices & chargers from everyday Americans to help keep COVID-19 patients connected to the ones they love.
“We started seeing stories of patients not being able to connect with their families while battling the coronavirus, and we thought, well there’s no shortage of devices. We just need to get the devices to them,” said Manraj.
Once they had the idea, Sunny and Manraj reached out to Jillian Ross and other friends who were on the front lines who confirmed that this was a big problem, and that donated devices could really help.
“Some of the patients we’re seeing have lower incomes or are from older populations and are walking in with flip phones or no phones. COVID-19 wards are very isolated and can be incredibly lonely,” said Jillian.
The group reached out to more Coke Scholars for help, including Andrew Barnhill (2006), Mayor Michael Tubbs (2008), Robert Accordino (1999), Sunpreet Singh (2016), Nasir Uddin (2006), and Sandeep Shah (2006) from across the country.
“We started at a really small scale collecting donations from our friends, and now we’ve delivered hundreds of devices.” said Manraj.
Nurses have been able to use one shared device for up to 10 patients each day, setting up zoom calls with families and disinfecting it between uses.
“What has really resonated to me as I lead this initiative is that everyone can contribute to this fight against COVID-19 in some capacity through our organization, whether it is by donating your personal device or getting your company to donate.” said Sunny.
Connect for COVID-19 is currently operating in Miami, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, and cities in New Jersey and Rhode Island.
Joining together with friends, Aakshi Agarwal (2017) created TeleHealth Access for Seniors, a nonprofit that provides seniors and low-income communities with devices and instructions to connect them to their physicians via TeleHealth, friends and family, and wellness tools.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced millions of Americans to stay home, and even a simple trip to the grocery store or doctor’s office puts patients at risk. However, research shows more than 50% of older Americans have 4 or more chronic conditions and need continuous care.
TeleHealth Access for Seniors hopes to keep this vulnerable population healthy while safe at home through Telemedicine – complete with instructions on how to set up the device and connect with their doctor. In addition, the group hopes to decrease the loneliness epidemic, increase activeness, and reduce wellness costs.
Learning of the initiative, 2020 Scholars Siddharth Jain and Abe Baker-Butler joined the team – Siddharth as treasurer and Abe as Recruitment Coordinator and New York Lead.
“We have over 85 volunteers in 24 states and DC, and have already connected hundreds with 700 donated devices and have so many great stories from them. We have many Coca‑Cola Scholars working with us as well!” said Aakshi.
To join their mission as a volunteer, contact Abe Baker-Butler.
In an effort to help get employees back to work and provide patients with peace of mind in light of COVID-19, Vault Health, led by CEO Jason Feldman (1990), has launched new saliva-based at home COVID testing in partnership with Rutgers Clinical Genomics Laboratory.
The test is the only FDA approved saliva test in the US and has been granted authorization from the FDA for at-home use. The test is ordered by a physician and sent via overnight mail to a home address. Once it arrives, the patient’s saliva collection is medically monitored during a telehealth visit. They then return their sample to the lab in a prepaid overnight pouch, and results are returned via email to the patient in 48 hours.
In recent studies, saliva tests have proven more sensitive for COVID-19 than nasal swabs. Testing capacity is now 50k tests PER DAY, ramping up further in the coming weeks, and Vault is partnering with employers across the country to help them bring back their employees and keep them at work in a safe manner eliminating risk of person-to-provider virus transmission at public testing sites.
“We felt an obligation as a team to help expand COVID testing across America and help the country open for business. We are leading by example, putting people before profit, keeping our team employed to help the rest of the country get back to work, play, school and life,” said Jason.
In light of all the school closures due to the coronavirus pandemic, Yannie Tan (2019) and friends are organizing the Crown Education Challenge, a K-12 global education initiative backed by leading professors, artists, and other experts.
“With up to 1.5 billion students experiencing educational disruption, the challenge strives to encourage students to take stake in global challenges and to sustain learning no matter the circumstances,” said Yannie.
The challenge is designed for K-12 students, teachers, or homeschooling parents who may be looking for supplemental enrichment or are interested in incorporating project-based learning into their curricula.
The team has asked creative students everywhere to submit an art, STEM, or writing piece in response to the theme “hope during a pandemic” to highlight optimism and solidarity during this challenging crisis. The challenge is accepting entries until June 15, 2020. For more information about the challenge guidelines, judging criteria, and prizes, visit crowneducationchallenge.org.
To help families navigate this challenging time, Emma Fialka-Feldman (2009) created MatchUS, a virtual matching system that connects families who have children with disabilities to an educator, speech therapist, or social worker.
Run by a handful of Massachusetts-based educator volunteers, they hope to fill a need for families who may not have heard from their school districts or want different support than what they are receiving from their schools or local districts.
“We have made over 180 matches from people all over the country and continue making matches daily. Families have overwhelming said the matches have been incredibly helpful!” said Emma.
A second-grade teacher in the Boston Public Schools, Emma has licenses in elementary, special education, and English Language Learners. She has an adult brother with an intellectual disability who through circles of support, lives an interdependent life working at Syracuse University.
The Coca‑Cola Scholars Foundation celebrates and empowers visionary leaders who are refreshing the world. With its 32nd class of Coca‑Cola Scholars, the Foundation has provided more than $70 million in scholarships to over 6,300 program alumni who together have become a powerful force for positive change.