Since 1989, the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation (CCSF) has supported more than 6,000 young people as they develop into leaders who make significant, positive impacts in the world. The Foundation, one of the world’s most respected business-supported scholarship programs, provides $20,000 college scholarships to promising high school students. In addition, it gives scholarship recipients opportunities for personal and professional growth and development and maintains a robust, engaged alumni network.
The program’s alumni have achieved leadership positions in business, government, nonprofits, academia, and the arts. It counts among its alumni members of the U.S. House and Senate, hundreds of entrepreneurs and C-suite executives, academic and nonprofit leaders, and internationally recognized artists and writers.
In 2016, the Foundation partnered with the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL®) to create the Scholar Coaching Initiative. Foundation leaders envisioned the initiative as a way to:
- Strengthen the network by creating more opportunities for Scholars and alumni to connect.
- Build on the Scholars’ leadership development during the Leadership Development Institute that takes place over the annual Scholars Weekend event.
- Deepen the knowledge and application of CCSF’s 4 pillars — the values of self-awareness, empathy, vision, and inspiration.
CCSF “exists to bring better to the world, through investment in exceptional high school students who are dedicated to leadership, service, and action that positively affects others.”
The college scholarship, while elemental, is only part of the investment CCSF seeks to make. By connecting Coca-Cola Scholars and hosting leadership and service summits for alumni, CCSF has created a robust network of connected, committed leaders. By adding further leadership development opportunities and personalized coaching to the Coca-Cola Scholar experience, the Foundation has the potential to accelerate the impact young Scholars might have, helping them become more successful earlier in life.
During their first year of college, Scholars receive personalized support from a CCSF coach trained in CCL’s coaching approach. The goal is to help Scholars develop personally and holistically, particularly as it relates to the CCSF’s 4 pillar values.
Key objectives for the coaching initiative are:
- Empowering the Scholars with guided reflection and goal planning.
- Promoting the Scholars’ success as academic, pre-professional, and community leaders.
- Strengthening engagement with the Foundation.
In addition, CCSF also wanted to provide alumni with unique opportunities to access leadership development. CCL’s coach training and follow-on support not only build coaching capacity within the network, but alumni and staff trained as coaches have indicated that the experience has been enriching to their professional and personal lives as well.
CCSF and CCL co-designed a 3-phase program to develop a custom coaching program, train CCSF coaches, and then implement 6 coaching sessions with the first cohort of Coca-Cola Scholars in 2016.
CCSF President J. Mark Davis and Director of Scholarships Jamie Williams gathered with CCL’s client team to initiate the discovery and strategic planning process for the coaching initiative. Among the priorities of this session were:
- Connecting CCSF’s pillars with CCL’s perspective on inside-out leader development.
- Overlaying student development theory concepts and exploring college-level leadership identity development.
- Presenting CCL’s leader development point of view and discussing coaching as a way to develop Scholars and others.
Just a month before this coaching pilot planning session, CCL delivered the Leadership Essentials training to 7 CCSF staff, all of whom would be serving in the initial cohort of CCSF coaches for the first year of the pilot.
CCSF staff who participated said the training was valuable for them, and that they came away understanding CCL’s view of leadership, including the Direction-Alignment-Commitment (DAC)™ model. They also reported that they gained valuable skills, such as applying the Situation-Behavior-Impact (SBI)™ model to give effective feedback.
4 priorities were set out for the coach training:
- Train 16 staff and alumni who would each serve as a coach for one to 3 new Coca-Cola Scholars.
- Maximize trainees’ coaching capacity using CCL’s framework for leader development.
- Establish coaching competencies, skills, and best practices.
- Launch a pilot coaching program with the intent to scale it.
The CCSF coach training presented models and concepts important for supporting college student leader development. Participants also were introduced to fundamental helping skills that facilitate effective coaching relationships as well as opportunities to practice their coaching.
In addition, CCL established protocols for the new coaches to document coaching sessions and be accountable for assessing and addressing any critical safety or well-being issues that could emerge during coaching sessions.
Coaches conducted 6 coaching sessions with their assigned Scholar(s), with each coach working with 1 to 3 Scholars. Both coaches and Scholars reported that the experience was worthwhile for them individually, and both groups felt it was worth continuing.
As a group, the Scholars reported their top benefits from the program were:
- Being more able to “step back” from situations and reflect on their options and intentions.
- Having a clearer vision for what they want to accomplish.
- Feeling more able to face challenges.
The Scholars also said the coaching program made them feel more connected to CCSF, one of the program’s key goals.
Coaches also appreciated the impact of the program. They reported:
- Strengthening their connection to the Coca-Cola Scholars network.
- Enhancing their leadership skills.
- Learning skills that helped them in their personal lives.
In addition to the positive impact coaching had on Scholars, the effect on coaches is a win-win for CCSF. Staff members who served as coaches gained valuable leadership development skills that they reported using with their direct reports and peers at the Foundation, as well as in their personal lives. Alumni coaches strengthened their bonds with CCSF and gained skills that continue to benefit them in their personal and professional lives.
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