During this past week 250 new Coke Scholars joined the Coca-Cola Family. As they came down the steps of the stage on the night of the banquet, it brought me back to when I was in their shoes, five years earlier in 2008, not knowing what exactly I would do with my life but that I was a Coca-Cola Scholar and I wanted to change the world. It is in large part because of Coca-Cola and the Scholarship program that I am successful today. I didn’t know it then, but the Coca-Cola Scholarship is so much more than just a scholarship program.

In life our hardest challenges can turn into amazing opportunities. As a pediatric brain tumor and stroke survivor I was forced to deal with my most difficult trials at a very young age. After a brain tumor recurrence and stroke at age 15, I had a lot of support but I was told to take time off from school and many people did not think I would graduate from high school and go to college. My parents encouraged me to go back to school right away, still in a wheel chair, and two years later I applied for a Coke Scholarship.

When I got the letter in the mail I could not believe that they had chosen me. At the age of 15 and even 17 many people were unsure of my future and Coca-Cola believed in me. They were and always will be there for me and for all of us because it is not just a scholarship program, it is a family. Being a part of the Coca-Cola Family means that when we as scholars travel we immediately have a friend almost everywhere we go because we can always find a Coca-Cola Scholar, as I did when I studied in Paris.

Being a Coke Scholar means always having a support system, having lifelong friends from the Scholars Weekend, having someone believe in you and always being connected. As a Coke Scholar and valuing highly my connection with Coca-Cola, I am thrilled to be able to do my Senior Internship in Strategic Events at Coke. As I plan for my future work, I am inspired by Coca-Cola’s efforts to make the world a better place. Projects such as the 5 by 20 program which aims to support 5 million women in entrepreneurship by the year 2020 and the Arctic Home program which raises money and awareness for polar bears are just two examples of how The Coca- Cola Company is making a difference in the world.

Through the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation more than 250 scholarships are awarded each year in a total amount of $3,000,000.  The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation now has over five thousand Scholarship alumni. It is a family, a system of everlasting support around the world and a group of entrepreneurs, past/present students, volunteers and leaders who are changing the world.

To the 25th class of Coca-Cola Scholars, congratulations! Welcome to the Coca-Cola Family!

Kelsey Tainsh is Strategic Communication & Events Intern at The Coca-Cola Company.