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Fueling FAFSA Completion to Open Postsecondary Pathways

Apr 17, 2024

Teddy Mejeur’s decision to pursue a career with Coca-Cola Beverages Florida, LLC (Coke Florida) traces back to something his dad always told him. Mejeur’s dad stressed the importance of working for a company that lasts.

Check presentation at Suncoast Polytechnical High School

The check presentation at Suncoast Polytechnical High School.

That conversation resonated with Mejeur and has been etched in his mind ever since. It’s what led him in 2011 to join the global Coca-Cola beverage system and the local, independent bottler Coca-Cola Beverages Florida, LLC (Coke Florida). In his 13 years with the Coke system, Mejeur has worked at many levels of the sales organization and today serves as the Territory General Manager for its Sarasota Territory, which includes Manatee, Sarasota, and parts of Charlotte counties. He leads and oversees all sales, distribution, and warehousing operations for the region.

A Lake Worth, Florida, native, Mejeur loves his job. While he works for a statewide company, he gets to focus on communities at a local level. He likes, as he said, “being able to serve the community where we live, work, and play.” His job keeps him “involved and engaged,” and he gets to see the direct impact of Coke Florida’s community engagement.

To improve the lives of people across the state, Coke Florida focuses on three pillars: sustainability, education, and economic empowerment. In its focus on education, the company helps ensure that students are provided with the resources they need to be successful.

Each year, Coke Florida donates 5,000 backpacks filled with essential school supplies to underserved students and works to bridge the technology divide by providing laptops and technical skills training in our local schools and after school organizations. In August of 2023, the company launched the Coke Florida Refreshing Minds Scholarship, a new 10-year, $2.8 million college scholarship commitment. It covers tuition and most local fees for economically disadvantaged students pursuing higher education at Florida public four-year universities, two-year colleges, or technical/vocational schools.

This year, Coke Florida partnered with PLANit Sarasota, the local college access network, and the Education Foundation of Sarasota County to be the exclusive sponsor of the Sarasota County FAFSA Challenge. The initiative resulted in the district outperforming the state and national FAFSA results based on data from the Department of Education (DOE) and the National College Access Network (NCAN) FAFSA trackers. The challenge generates buzz around completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), a vital step in preparing for education after high school.

Completing the FAFSA is a key indicator of students’ active planning for life after high school. For many students, especially those most underserved, it provides a lifeline that keeps alive the dream of a college degree or a high-value certificate.

With recent changes to the FAFSA and with the application opening date being pushed back from October 2023 to the end of December 2023, the need to raise awareness and help students and families could not have been greater. With the support of Coke Florida, PLANit Sarasota organized FAFSA open houses at eight area high schools. At the open houses, students and families accessed free, one-on-one support to complete their application. One lucky student at each open house also won a $100 gift card!

The FAFSA Challenge itself lasted from January through February, and the three high schools with FAFSA competition rates closest to their goals were recognized with cash gifts for the Student Success Centers. Suncoast Polytechnical High School took first place in the challenge.

For Mejeur, getting to see the FAFSA open houses in action was inspiring and comforting. As he said, “You get to see what our future holds. You see high school kids so eager to continue their education and using every resource to get there. Talking to these kids is great.”

Education resonates with Mejeur because he understands the opportunities that open with a postsecondary degree. During his high school years, he completed a dual-enrollment program and graduated at age 16 with two years of college credit under his belt. He took some time away from college; however, as he said, “I didn’t see the same growth potential that my friends and family had because of their college degrees.”

Mejeur enrolled at Palm Beach Atlantic University, earned his degree, and has never looked back. As he understands well, “A college degree can totally change someone’s trajectory.” And he is grateful to play a part in helping students do just that.

Learn more about Coke Florida: www.cocacolaflorida.com.

Coca-Cola Beverages Florida with a red Coke bottle with yellow sun design in the background