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Coca-Cola VP Lori Billingsley Talks Scholarships for First-Generation Students, Dropout Prevention

Coca-Cola VP Lori Billingsley Talks Scholarships for First-Generation Students, Dropout Prevention
Lori Billingsley, far left, with her executive and leadership colleagues at one of the many African American conferences they partner with annually.

Who knew that for every sip you take of a Coca-Cola product, you are sending a first-generation student to college and helping to lower the devastating drop-out epidemic of at-risk students in America’s high schools?

These are just some of the activities that Lori Billingsley is immersed in with her dream job as vice president of community relations for the world’s most recognizable brand.

Billingsley and her Coca-Cola colleagues leverage the vast platforms provided by the crème de la crème of African American and other minority conferences and events — including 100 Black Men Convention, the NAACP and National Urban League conferences, the Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference and especially the Essence Music Fest in New Orleans — to promote health, conservancy, recycling

As vice president of community relations, which Include community engagement, community engagement and community relations for all of North America, we have five community priorities that we fund: water stewardship; community recycling, active and healthy lifestyle; diversity and inclusion; and education,” Billingsley said.

When you partner with conferences, you unveil a multi-pronged program initiative that have widespread impact.

“This time of year is very busy for us. We did workshop panels, we did forums around sustainability; we did things regards to exhibit booth; we sponsored healthy active walk as well. We were at the Essence Music Festival. Talk about a good investment. We had 300,000-400,000 consumers. We do the [Louisiana] Superdome, the convention center. It’s a great place to touch our consumers with not just our programs but also 100 Black Men Convention.

What we’re doing is really activating our programs around active and healthy living, around helping the environment and things that we’re doing to help our communities.

There are other initiatives that you spearhead that contributes to making this a dream job because you help young people excel.

Outside of diversity, obviously year round we’re giving scholarships to students in our First-Generation Scholarship Program. And it is just what it name sounds like — for students who are first in their families to go to college. We have something called the Coca-Cola Youth Program, which is our dropout prevent program. This program actually teams students from middle school with students in elementary school. And it has a 98 percent retention rate. So, for at-risk students, they help shepherd each other through.

We are doing also doing Recycle Back, ocean conservancy, and many other initiatives.

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