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Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation Scholar Coaching Initiative

Coca Cola Scholars Foundation
CLIENT:Coca Cola Scholars Foundation
LOCATION:Headquartered in Atlanta, GA
SIZE:21 employees

Client Profile & Challenge

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 us 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, and 
  • 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 our 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, and
  • Strengthening engagement with the Foundation.

In addition, CCSF also wanted to provide alumni with unique opportunities to access leadership development. Our 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.

Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation Coaching Initiative with the Center for Creative Leadership

Solution & Results

We 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 our 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 our perspective on inside-out leader development,
  • Overlaying student development theory concepts and exploring college-level leadership identity development,
  • Presenting our 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, we 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 our 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.

Training Coaches

Next, 4 of our trainers traveled to Atlanta to train the first set of coaches: 7 CCSF staff and 9 alumni who volunteered to serve in this new role.

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 our framework for leader development,
  • Establish coaching competencies, skills, and best practices, and 
  • 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, we 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.

The Impact

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, and
  • 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, and
  • 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.

Participants Say

“The co-design approach through every stage has been very beneficial in shaping a meaningful experience, for both Scholars and alumni. Being a thought partner helped us determine the best way to provide a unique experience that supports Scholars where they are, that engages alumni in a mutually developmental way, and that has a positive impact on their affinity for our network.”

— Jamie Williams, Director of Scholarship

“The most valuable thing I learned during the program was how to give feedback using Situation-Behavior Impact. That is valuable because the ability to give quality, useful feedback is a difficult skill that is extremely important and useful for a leader.”

— CCSF staff member

“The different activities and reflection activities were great in helping me . . . know what it’s like to be coached before I begin coaching. The training was interactive, personalized, and intentional. I benefited greatly from it.”

— Coach trainee

Partner With Us

We understand how community-led and community-based initiatives can help build a foundation for real change and greater transformation. We can partner with your organization to create customized leadership solutions that allow you to expand your impact and the meaningful work you bring to the world. 


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