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Bridget Payne Named Coca-Cola Academic Team Gold Scholar

HARRISBURG, Ill. (March 24, 2020) — Bridget Payne of Harrisburg, a student at Southeastern Illinois College has been named a 2020 Coca-Cola Academic Team Gold Scholar and will receive a $1,500 scholarship.

The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation sponsors the Coca-Cola Academic Team program by recognizing 50 Gold, 50 Silver and 50 Bronze Scholars with nearly $200,000 in scholarships annually. Each scholar also receives a commemorative medallion.

“The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation has a long history of providing financial assistance to outstanding students at community colleges,” said Jane Hale Hopkins, President of the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation. “We are proud to partner with Phi Theta Kappa and make it possible for deserving students to achieve their educational goals.”

Students are nominated for the academic team by their college administrators. Selection is based on academic achievement, leadership, and engagement in college and community service.

Payne is the president of the SIC chapter of Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), the 2019-20 student trustee for the college, the president and co-founder of Professional Agricultural Students at SIC, president of Circle K, an executive officer for student government, a student ambassador, and a member of the education club.

“I am beyond honored to be named a 2020 Coca-Cola Academic Team Gold Scholar,” said Payne. “I felt that my hard work and dedication to my classes, extra curriculars, community service, and other activities had been truly recognized and that all of my hard work had paid off.”

Coca-Cola Academic Team members are recognized in both local and statewide ceremonies and will be recognized internationally during Phi Theta Kappa’s annual convention, PTK Catalyst, April 2-3, which will be held online this year. Prior to COVID-19, the event was to be held at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas, near Dallas.

Payne admits to being “bummed” when she received the news that the PTK Catalyst was canceled, but she looks forward to attending via computer and listening to the names of the other scholars that will be recognized.

“Being a member of Phi Theta Kappa has taught me to reach for higher goals and to excel in what I do. It has given me the leadership skills, responsibility, and the confidence to know that I can be successful in my future career and in life in general.”

After completing her general studies courses at SIC and earning an associate degree, Payne plans to transfer to Southern Illinois University-Carbondale to pursue a bachelor’s degree in agricultural education.

“I come from a family with a lifelong farming background which has been instilled in me from birth. Consequently, my love for agriculture is a part of who I am. I feel that I have been called to teach great things and help young adults, not only to pursue but to achieve their dreams and interests,” said Payne. “Agriculture is more than just farming. It opens the doors to many more experiences and widespread industries. This can build a positive impact on the community, which can then spread to the relationships between students and their families. Teaching will also allow me to be a part of this process of them learning about agriculture.”

Dr. Lynn Tincher-Ladner, President and CEO of Phi Theta Kappa, said, “We thank the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation for recognizing these student leaders and for investing in their futures. Scholarships like these are integral to the success of these students in reaching their educational and career goals.”

Phi Theta Kappa is the premier honor society recognizing the academic achievement of students at associate degree-granting colleges and helping them to grow as scholars and leaders. The Society is made up of more than 3.5 million members and nearly 1,300 chapters in 11 nations, with approximately 240,000 active members in the nation’s colleges. Learn more at

“We were so excited to learn that Bridget had won a Coca-Cola national award through Phi Theta Kappa, and a first for Southeastern in many years,” said Kellye Whitler, PTK sponsor at SIC.

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