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The Coca-Cola Foundation awards funding for Coca-Cola First-Generation Scholarship Program

Isabel Garcia (center) is seen here with the group she mentors (from left) Sara Martinez-Sanchez 20C, Jenny Becerra 18C, Jaylan Jacobs 20C, Xiqin Huang 18N, Audrey Balan 19C, and Tak Chi Wan 18B.

When Jalyn Radziminski 18C arrived at Emory from her hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana, she began experiencing homesickness and felt overwhelmed by the social, academic and practical realities of college life.

“As a first-generation college student, I had no idea how I would handle the pressures to make friends and get good grades all while adjusting to life away from home,” she said.

In her first few weeks on campus, Radziminski tried to figure everything out on her own. Then she learned about the 1915 Scholars program.

Created in 2014, the 1915 Scholars program provides comprehensive support to Emory’s first-generation college students. Members receive specialized orientation, customized academic advising and access to workshops and structured social and networking events. They also receive tiered mentoring from peers, graduate students, staff, alumni and retired faculty members who form a family cluster that meets regularly with each student, providing guidance and support.

The Coca-Cola Foundation recently pledged to bolster the program with $1 million in scholarships and programmatic support. Beginning in the fall semester, seven first-generation Emory College students with demonstrated financial need will each be awarded a $35,000 scholarship each academic year for four years.

“A college education is the key to future opportunities for so many students,” said Helen Smith Price, president of The Coca-Cola Foundation. “We know that scholarships are often the only way some very deserving students are able to attend college. We are proud to offer scholarships to Emory students who are the first in their families to attend college”.

Many first-generations students face unique psychological, academic and financial challenges that can interfere with the ability to complete their undergraduate studies. The retention rate among first-generation students enrolled in the 1915 Scholars program, however, is 97 percent. All of those students, who represent 18 percent of the class of 2021 alone, receive some form of financial aid.

“We owe it to everyone to see that first-generation scholars thrive in this competitive academic environment,” said alumna mentor Isabel Garcia 99L. “It’s not enough that these students merely attend Emory. We strive to make them an essential part of the student body.”

An honor student who majored in linguistics and interdisciplinary studies, Radziminski thrived at Emory, serving in many volunteer student leadership roles, including sorority president and representative to the university senate, before graduating with the first cohort of 1915 Scholars in spring 2018. 

“The program provided the grounding for me and other students to succeed,” she said. “Without the 1915 Scholars, I could not have been as engaged in student leadership and service as I was—and I might not have graduated.”

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