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Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation Provides Scholarships to Additional 150 Community College Students

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Chrissie Prichard Vandevere was an A-plus high school student planning to be an engineer. Determined to pay her own way through college and not burden her family, she enrolled in community college. A Leaders of Promise Scholarship from Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society helped her complete her associate degree, her first step toward becoming a civil engineer for an international company.

Zafer Ceto is now a junior at the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, majoring in computer science, but without a Leaders of Promise Scholarship he would not have been able to complete community college on schedule.

Now more students than ever can be helped by the program that started Vandevere, Ceto and more than 230 others on their road to success. Mark Davis, President of the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation, announced today that the Foundation will provide annual funding for 150 Leaders of Promise Scholarships of $1,000 each.

"The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation has a long history of providing financial assistance to outstanding students at community colleges," said Davis. "We are proud to partner with Phi Theta Kappa and make it possible for more deserving students to achieve their educational goals. Phi Theta Kappa members are proven scholars, engaged students who want to use their abilities to make a difference. In designating $150,000 for Leaders of Promise, the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation is supporting tomorrow's leaders of the global community."

"We thank the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation for their belief in our members and this incredible investment in their future. The Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise Program will now select a total of 180 winners every year to receive $1,000 scholarships," said Dr. Rod Risley, Executive Director of Phi Theta Kappa.

"This is especially welcome in the current economic climate," said Dr. Risley. "The Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise Program will have a tremendous impact on the lives of many hard working, high achieving students, making it possible for them to complete their associate degrees."

Recent studies indicate that 6 in 10 community college students work more than 20 hours a week, and more than a quarter work 35 hours a week, Dr. Risley said. "Balancing the demands of work and classes, and often having family responsibilities as well, puts a tremendous burden on students. The drop in community college completion rates can be attributed to the overwhelming pressures of working part-time and full-time while trying to keep up with classwork. The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation's financial commitment to the Leaders of Promise will have far-reaching benefits for students and for the nation."

The Leaders of Promise Scholarships were established by Phi Theta Kappa in 2000, as part of the Society's long-range plan to provide financial support to members still enrolled in community colleges. Scholarship recipients are chosen for academic achievement and leadership potential, which they fulfill by engaging in college and community service. The Society also funds and administers more than $800,000 in additional scholarships, and has developed partnerships with 700 senior colleges and universities that offer transfer scholarships for members valued at more than $37 million.

The application period for 2011 Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise Scholarships will open in January and extend through May.

"Phi Theta Kappa opened many doors for me, but the Leaders of Promise Scholarship was the first," said Vandevere, who received a civil engineering degree and now is working on a major energy/economic development site in Papua, New Guinea.

"When it comes to education, money should not be a challenge for students," said Ceto. "If I had not received a Leaders of Promise Scholarship last year, I wouldn't be where I am right now."

"I think it's great that the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation is funding these scholarships," said Matice Morris, a Leaders of Promise winner and a senior accounting major at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. "Finances play a major role in education and if there is a way to alleviate those concerns, then that's awesome!"

"Clearly financial assistance must be a top priority for stellar students," said Laura Dupree, part of the International Officer team that developed ideas to fund the original Leaders of Promise Program. "This type of partnership with the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation is exactly what our officer team had in mind when the Leaders of Promise Scholarship Program was envisioned! By empowering these students to obtain their educational goals, all of society benefits," said Dupree, who is now an administrator at Texas' Lone Star College-North Harris.

"The funds not only aid college completion, but provide students with the opportunity to engage in Society programs and develop leadership skills to become future leaders in Phi Theta Kappa," Dr. Risley said. "These funds are not only an investment in our students, they are an investment in the future of our organization and the colleges and communities we serve."

Of the 239 former winners, at least 30 of whom are still attending two-year colleges, 105 have held Phi Theta Kappa leadership positions and 38 have gone on to win significant national recognitions, including Phi Theta Kappa's Guistwhite Scholarships, All-USA Academic First Team recognition, Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation New Century Scholar awards, or Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarships.

Ashley Odell, a former Leaders of Promise winner, also received a Coca-Cola Two-Year Scholarship, plus awards from the All-USA Academic Team, New Century Scholars, Guistwhite Scholars Program and the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.

"It would have been financially impossible for me to earn my associate degree without the support I received from both Phi Theta Kappa as a Leader of Promise and Coca-Cola Refreshments as a Two-Year College Scholar. It's so encouraging and inspiring to see these two outstanding advocates for community college students now working together on a common program to expand more opportunities for students pursuing their dreams," Odell said.

"I've been very fortunate with scholarships over the years, including being a Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholar, but I always remember where it all started -- the Phi Theta Kappa Leaders of Promise program."

Odell has been accepted to Simmons College in Boston as a Dorothea Lynde Dix Scholar and will begin work on a combined accelerated bachelor's/master's program in Cultural Studies this spring.

Melinda Hornback followed a similar path that began with the Leaders of Promise Scholarship. A returning adult student with a family and full-time job, she was later named a member of the All-USA Academic First Team, a New Century Scholar, a Guistwhite Scholar and Jack Kent Cooke Scholar.

Hornback is now enrolled in the University of Michigan's master's in social work program.

"The Leaders of Promise Scholarship gave me the courage to apply for other scholarships, which gave me the opportunity to finish my bachelor's degree and begin pursuing my master's degree in social work," Hornback said. "Being awarded that scholarship early in my education set in motion life-changing events for me. The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation has made a wise and worthy investment by giving more Phi Theta Kappa members these opportunities."

Headquartered in Jackson, Miss., Phi Theta Kappa is the largest honor society in higher education, with 1,250 chapters on college campuses in the 50 U.S. states, Canada, Germany, the Republic of Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, the British Virgin Islands, the United Arab Emirates and U.S. territorial possessions. More than two million students have been inducted since its founding in 1918, with approximately 100,000 students inducted annually.


Contact: Melissa Mayer   melissa.mayer@ptk.org   601.984.3684