The room was full of optimism as the first #‎CokeScholarsHack began at The Coca-Cola Company headquarters on July 25. But this hack had nothing to do with computer programming – instead, it was an opportunity for more than 50 participants, including 25 Coca-Cola Scholars, mentors, judges and volunteers, to make a difference by helping three nonprofits.

Partnering with Amplify 4 Good, a group that strengthens the efforts of service organizations and entrepreneurs by making them better equipped to foster positive change in underserved communities, the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation and its Alumni Advisory Board organized the hack to create transformative change in a fast-paced and intense environment.

Neha Gupta from Empower Orphans
Neha Gupta, founder of Empower Orphans, speaks about her non-profit organization.

Hackers listened to representatives from three nonprofits present their design, marketing and fundraising problems:

  1. Athena Lao, 2008 Scholar and co-founder of BEST Foundation
  2. Megan Barber, Manager of Donor Engagement at the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation
  3. Neha Gupta, 2014 Scholar and founder of Empower Orphans
Following the presentations from the nonprofits, hackers joined together in groups to use their skills, expertise, and entrepreneurial innovation methodologies to come up with solutions. Each nonprofit had two groups dedicated to brainstorming – in just five hours – ways to improve their processes.

BEST Foundation Team Presents
The BEST Foundation Team presents to the judges.

After creating solution presentations, the hackers reassembled to showcase their ideas to the nonprofit leaders and 4 judges, who would select the group with the most impactful solution:

  1. Jay Cranman, VP of Corporate Partnerships, Points of Light
  2. Ben Garren, General Counsel, North America Group, The Coca-Cola Company
  3. Jolene Loetscher, 1997 Coca-Cola Scholar and Co-Founder of Mud Mile Communications
  4. Randy McDow, Executive Director, Stamps Family Charitable Foundation
The judges evaluated six innovative solutions, and Empower Orphans Team 2 was chosen as the winning team. Ameet Kallarackal, Darien Dabney, Karyn Harrington, Laura Lasance, Kembo Tom, and Wylie Mao’s solution involved refocusing the organization, narrowing their scope to basic health and education intervention for orphans under 18, and then creating a replicable model to attract high school and college students as volunteers. They also suggested strategic partnerships to gain visibility, even partnering with three organizations that day.


“It was a truly wonderful experience that will help drastically expand Empower Orphans,” said Neha Gupta, founder of Empower Orphans. “It is always such an honor to be reconnected with Coke Scholars and Coke alumni. I still cannot believe I am one of them; I feel very lucky.”

In the end, all six teams brought a new and valuable perspective to their nonprofit and learned from their teammates during their collaboration.

“As always, I am consistently impressed by the caliber of Coca-Cola Scholar events – [this] hackathon one of them…It’s very exciting to see the Foundation continue to move in a positive direction,” Hacker and 2010 Scholar John Lowry said.

Jay Cranman shared a judge’s perspective. “This hackathon is just another, in a myriad of ways, in which Coke continues to invest in the Atlanta community," he said. "It was a special day, and I was honored to be part of it. It was easy to see the power of service and volunteerism as 50 individuals gave up a day of their weekend to support three amazing nonprofits. I’m sure those nonprofits got a tremendous lift from the event, but like a lot of things in life, I venture that the individual participants and judges, myself included, were the real winners.”

Winning Team
The Winning Team, Empower Orphans Team 2.

As a result of the great success of the event, the Coca-Cola Scholars Alumni Advisory Board, created by alumni to build on the efforts of the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation through networking, mentoring and collaborations, plans to host another #CokeScholarsHack in Los Angeles later this year.

See videos from the #CokeScholarsHack.