A former NFL coach, a status-quo-crushing teacher and Miss America 2018 walk into a room and strike up a conversation.

No, it’s not the beginning of a joke.

It’s the Coca-Cola Scholars Leadership Summit.

The summit celebrates the scholarship’s mission to provide financial support for college-bound students and to foster an inclusive community that inspires social change.

Of the 6,000 scholarship recipients in the past 30 years, more than 400 came together in Atlanta recently to learn from each other and outside speakers.

Here are a few of the stories shared during the Sept. 27-30 event:

Adan Gonzalez, Puede Network Founder, 2011 Coca-Cola Scholar

Growing up in a predominantly Spanish-speaking community with limited access to economic opportunities, Gonzalez believed education would grant him and his family a better life. A Georgetown undergraduate degree and a Harvard Masters later, he returned to his community to empower youth through Puede Network – a youth education and leadership development program. Gonzalez hopes his work helps disrupt systems of power that limit the potential his students see in themselves.

Katori Hall, Award-Winning Playwright, 1999 Coca-Cola Scholar

Katori Hall

When Hall was an undergraduate at Columbia University, she and a classmate attempted to find a play that featured two women of color. They couldn’t. Hall decided to do something about it. She crafted the award-winning play The Mountaintop, which imagines a conversation between Martin Luther King Jr. and a fictitious hotel maid the night before his assassination.

For her work, she became the first African American woman to win the Laurence Oliver Award for Best New Play. With many additional writings and accolades now under her belt, she shared the power of storytelling with her fellow-Coca-Cola Scholars.

Daron K. Roberts, Former NFL Coach, Educator and Author, 1997 Coca-Cola Scholar

Daron K. Roberts

A Harvard law-school graduate turned NFL coach, Roberts is above all a motivator. The founding director for the Center for Sports Leadership and Innovation at the University of Texas, he develops leadership and character curricula for student and professional athletes, helping build vulnerability and empathy. He shares the story of his own journey in his book – Call an Audible: Let my Pivot from Harvard Law to NFL Coach Inspire Your Transition – and also hosts the podcast “A Tribe Called Yes.”

Cara Mund, 2018 Miss America, 2012 Coca-Cola Scholar

Cara Mund

Mund is not the first Coca-Cola Scholar to become Miss America, but she is the first Miss America to represent her state of North Dakota with the title. The crown provided her a platform not only to inspire her fellow North Dakotans, but to continue her passion for service.

As Miss America, Mund traveled an average of 20,000 miles a month, changing location nearly every two days, as she advocated women’s empowerment, education and community service. With her fellow Scholars, she shared her joys of being crowned Miss America but also her struggles to maintain her own voice while serving that role.

Michael Tubbs, Mayor of Stockton, Calif., 2008 Coca-Cola Scholar

Michael Tubbs


As a Stanford University student with a White House internship, Tubbs’ received a life-changing call. His cousin had been murdered in Stockton – the same town where Tubbs had been born to a teenage mom and an incarcerated dad; the same town that had averaged more murders per capita than Chicago or Afghanistan.

Wanting a different future for his hometown, while still in college, Tubbs ran to represent Stockton’s 6th District. He won, becoming one of the youngest City Councilmembers in the country. In 2016, Tubbs was elected to serve as Mayor of Stockton. He has since secured $20,000,000 to launch Stockton Scholars – a program that aims to triple the number of local students entering and graduating from Stockton – and launched the nation’s first ever municipal level basic income pilot.

Amy Purdy, Paralympian

Amy Purdy

Purdy grew up an active snowboarder. Losing both legs below the knee to Bacterial Meningitis at age 19 didn’t change that. Now a Paralympic medalist, having competed in the 2014 Sochi games and the 2018 PyeongChang Paralympic Winter Games, Purdy is not only an athlete but a motivational speaker. As she told Coca-Cola Scholars, “The stories that we’re the most scared to tell – those are the stories that make us human, and what’s human is what connects us all.”

Jane Hale Hopkins, Incoming Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation President

Jane H. Hopkins

Eighteen years after joining the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation, Hopkins is poised to take the leadership reigns as President. She is excited to help the Foundation on its journey from transactional to transformational – not only giving Scholars a check for college, but engaging them throughout their lives to help them grow as leaders.

Caroline Tsay, CEO of Compute Software and Coca-Cola Board Member

Caroline Tsay

The oldest of four children born to Taiwanese immigrants, Tsay grew up in a home that encouraged entrepreneurship and tech-savvy. She and her three siblings now all work with technology in Silicon Valley. Tsay herself is CEO and co-founder of Compute Software – a venture-backed cloud infrastructure software company. As of April, she is also the newest addition to Coca-Cola’s board. The youngest member by 16 years, and first Asian American in that role, she is eager to help Coca-Cola use technology to connect the dots between consumers and the company.