Over the last year, high school students nationwide were asked a simple question by drink manufacturer Sparkling Ice as part of their Flavorful Futures Scholarship program: “Tell us what makes you not bland.”
In that year, more than 3,000 applied for the scholarship, writing essays and making personalized videos, all in the hopes of winning one of five $5,000 scholarships up for grabs.
During the Wednesday 1 p.m. lunch period at South Forsyth High School, as hundreds of students sat eating lunch, principal Laura Wilson announced that a senior from the school, Sarah Kline, had won one of the five scholarships.
Kline herself was ambushed with the news, along with all the rest of the students, and was presented with an oversized check by Sparkling Ice representatives along with her friends and family in a surprise celebration.
“It feels great, I was not expecting this at all so it’s really exciting to have gotten it,” Kline said after being presented the check, shock still plain on her face.
Kline, who will start at Georgia Tech as a mathematics major in the fall, said that she never expected to be picked for the award and that she nearly didn’t make the deadline for her application.
“I made it actually on the last day, because I found out about it late. So I was struggling to get everything in on time,” she said with a laugh.
Before the big surprise, Wilson said that they were proud of Kline but not surprised that she was picked, calling her a “standard South Forsyth student” that approached the scholarship application in a creative and honest way.
“She’s a bright girl, she works hard, does what she’s supposed to do and really is striving to be very successful in the future,” Wilson said.
According to Clay Lichterman, director of immediate consumption at the Washington-based beverage company, that honesty and authenticity is what they were looking for when they began promoting the scholarship last year.
He said that they tried to make the competition about things beyond grades and skills, and more about who the students were as a person.
“Really what we wanted to see was their authenticity with themselves,” Lichterman said. “This was not about giving a scholarship to a straight A student or an athlete or somebody that has access to other scholarships. This was about giving it to someone who’s unique and different.”
He said that students answered essay questions and provided a video to showcase who they were. What they got from the video submissions varied wildly in topic, he said, some including singing, dancing or sports highlights, and others included humor or serious explanations about who a student was.
He said what struck them about Kline’s application and video was how honest and real she was with them and her creative approach.
“She gave us a day in the life here at South Forsyth High School, from waking up to coming to school to where she can be found working at the theatre department behind the scenes … what makes her, her,” Lichterman said.
Lichterman added that Sparkling Ice decided as a company several years ago to expand how they give back to the community and directly touch young people’s lives by supporting a select few with college scholarships.
“Our company in general gives back. Whether it’s Children’s Miracle Network or Susan G. Komen, we are always giving back,” Lichterman said.
“If these students are going to support us and purchase our product every day, we need to have an opportunity to help send them off to college for the next four years.”