In 2018, The Coca-Cola Co. USA invited 18 to 24-year-olds across the U.S. to participate in the “Dear Future Community” Challenge and submit their best ideas to strengthen their hometowns. Each of the 17 selected “changemakers” bring innovative solutions for strengthening their communities.

These young adults come from all walks of life and their backgrounds are as unique as their changemaking ideas. Meet some of the challenge changemakers and discover what drives their passion for their communities.

Bridget Cowen; Clemson University, Clemson, S.C.

As Bridget Cowen implements her recycling initiative, she seeks to renew her community of Clemson, S.C. , and work towards a “World Without Waste”, Coca-Cola’s initiative to help collect and recycle a bottle or can for each one we sell by 2030. Currently a junior at Clemson University, Bridget’s passion for her college hometown began while still in high school.

“When I toured Clemson I really liked the environment and the community feeling: the campus and the city are all interconnected,” she said.

Even from a young age, Bridget was environmentally conscious and her sentiment for taking care of our planet was strong. “I grew up always recycling, it affects global warming which is a huge issue. We need to make sure we are disposing our waste in the proper way. We’re just people in this wonderful world; if we don’t take care of it we’re not going to have future generations that can benefit from it.”

Her fervor to implement a robust student-driven recycling effort across the Clemson campus extends beyond a simple idea: it has become intermingled in her life and future career. “I’m an elementary education major. I’ve worked with some of the local elementary schools through my major. It’s really important to involve students in recycling activities because the earlier you get to them, the more likely they are to increase their efforts, and we’ll have a future generation that’s more likely to recycle.”

Alexxus Beckwith; Wilberforce University, Ohio

Alexxus Beckwith has a similar passion for recycling and has a three-point plan for how she can change her community. Her idea involves setting up recycling stations and recycling sorting areas around campus and establishing a special projects design lab aimed at repurposing recyclables into salable products. Now a junior at Wilberforce University studying mass communications, Alexxus never thought she’d end up where she is now.

“I had never heard about Wilberforce," she said. "Right when I walked in the door, everyone opened their arms to me and wanted to hug me. They all told me, ‘you can do this, you’ve got this!”

While already civic-minded, it was Dr. Tashia L. Bradley, executive vice president for student engagement and success at Wilberforce who kickstarted Alexxus’ involvement in giving back to her community. While recycling quickly became her primary focus, it all started with local efforts to feed those most in need.

“I started off with an idea for a small community garden," Alexxus said. "Over the summer I worked with another organization and we focused on planning it. We gave the fruits and vegetables back to the community – that’s where this all started. Dr. Bradley let me know about this grant and encouraged me to apply so we could find bigger and better ways to help our local community. Recycling is very important because it affects our future. Young adults are the future – we have the urgency and passion to make change happen.”

Isabel Raymundo; Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, Ill.

Originally from McKinley Park on the south side of Chicago, Isabel Raymundo is majoring in computer science and software engineering and minoring in astrophysics at the Illinois Institute of Technology. She plans to support and educate children in her community, specifically, instilling excitement for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Also known as STEM, this interdisciplinary curriculum is currently only available on the north side of Chicago. “I grew up very poor, so we didn’t have very much and the one thing I always think about when I think about my middle school science teacher. She made science very exciting; we’d do all these science experiments and she’d bring in scientists to teach us about their jobs. There’s this huge stigma that math and science is scary. She made math and science very palatable,” she said.

Isabel wants to work with local organizations and The Coca-Cola Co. USA to create a role model program for children to show them the importance of education. “We need to stop the fear of math/science and foster a love for it. The only way we can change the future is to get children excited, and for that they need role models.” She has already implemented a couple of neat projects, one of which includes bringing robotics to an elementary school. “We’re working with our local elementary school; they have a Lego robotics team there. We work closely with them. Because of their hard work, these kids get to see their robot develop and improve. That’s what hooks kids: seeing their ideas coming to life.”

Christian Baker; Washington University, St. Louis, Mo.

Currently a student at Washington University in St. Louis, Christian Baker learned to be civically minded at an early age in his hometown of Bloomington, Ill. “Growing up my family always instilled in me the importance of service—wherever I am and in whatever capacity possible. In my hometown, I grew up with people that were from lower socioeconomic statuses. Seeing what they had to go through to get to where they are and seeing where some of them ended up…I have friends that have been in prison, in jail and it’s been hard to see that especially because I grew up with them,” he commented.

Christian wants to provide opportunities for disadvantaged youth and engage them in their St. Louis community through music and education.

“This is a really awesome opportunity to give back to the community as well as getting more involved in the community beyond my campus and learning what I can do to serve and give back,” he continued. Even before entering the challenge, Christian was already heavily involved in several initiatives to improve his community. “I participated in a program where we have university students go to housing projects to do activities with the kids there. I was also involved with tutoring in my freshman and sophomore years and go to church right by Washington University. I’m connected with them and their community outreach to St. Louis. These are my main connections to the St. Louis community at large.”

Tyler Zangaglia; Gonzaga University, Spokane, Wash.

Even though he is enrolled as a business student at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, Tyler Zangaglia considers Portland, Oregon, a second home, and remains passionate and involved in helping bring change to the city. He visits his grandparents there on a regular basis. A Coca-Cola Scholar, he is eager to work with local bottler Swire Coca-Cola USA, to see change happen in a variety of areas within this community.

“There’s a unique feel to the city of Portland and specifically the people. I’m frustrated with why we aren’t talking about real world issues that are happening. Why aren’t we discussing how we can make a difference with the next generation?” said Tyler. He is acutely aware of the biggest pain points within the Portland community and is looking into how to go about fixing them. One of his ideas focuses on “engaging college students in making a difference and being involved in the community and activism,” Tyler shared. While he recognizes that his ideas aren’t going to cure all the ills that his community suffers from, he remains optimistic. “Sometimes there’s not a lot we can do about the bad and the evil that’s happening, but we can counteract that by just putting back as much good and positivity as we can into the world. I hope that’s what this project will be able to do in Portland.”

Over the coming months, each of the changemakers will work with community organizations, local Coca-Cola bottling partners, and Coca-Cola Scholars and alumni to workshop and bring their ideas to life.