Support for Success


First-generation student inspired to mentor others

KENNESAW, Ga. (Jun 10, 2019) — Tiondra Grant can pinpoint the moment she realized her future involved teaching.

While a student at Columbus High School in Columbus, Ga., she served as a volunteer math and science tutor at summer camp for at-risk children, and there Grant met a girl who resembled a younger version of herself. The girl had aspirations of being accepted into a local magnet school program but was discouraged by her peers as she struggled academically. Grant, who overcame her own academic challenges as a child, felt an immediate connection with the girl and committed to mentoring her throughout the summer.

For weeks, Grant offered words of encouragement and served as a dedicated study aid, ultimately leading to the girl’s acceptance into the magnet program.

“It was then that I thought this might be my calling,” said Grant, a secondary education student and member of Kennesaw State University’s track and field team. “Meeting with other people who have been in the same situation with you makes you feel like you’re never alone, and I hope that I can continue to be that person for others.”

Much like the guidance she provided a student in need, Grant has a unique support system at Kennesaw State as a member of the first cohort of the Coca-Cola First Generation and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Scholars program. The program, made possible by a $1.25 million donation from The Coca-Cola Foundation, provides scholarships and wraparound services to students who identify as first generation – those who are first in their immediate families to seek college degrees.

Tiondra Grant

Growing up in a household with four siblings, Grant said she knew it would be difficult for her parents to afford sending her to college. In 2012, her father was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which prevented him from working. He has since been in remission for three years but more recently has been diagnosed with other illnesses that have put a financial strain on the family. Through the Coca-Coca Scholars program, the burden of paying for a college education has been eliminated, Grant said.

In addition to the HOPE Scholarship, the students receive a $5,000 award annually to cover all costs associated with tuition, fees and books. However, the benefits extend far beyond financial support.

“All of the students in the program have doubts because we are the first in our families to attend college, but now we have access to so many advisors through the University and Coca-Cola,” said Grant, who also participates in KSU’s Thrive Program. “If you need help with anything, someone will be there for you.”

Since joining the Coca-Cola Scholars program, Grant has taken part in networking events with Coca-Cola representatives and the University’s Black Alumni Society. She also has access to graduation coaches, mentoring receptions and workshops throughout the four-year program. With aspirations of becoming a teacher, the program has connected her with a Cobb County educator who will serve as an outside mentor helping her to achieve her goals.

“Tiondra is one of those students who goes above and beyond in everything she does, and now she’s being recognized for that effort with her acceptance into not one, but two scholars programs in addition to being an athlete,” said Shae Smith, manager of KSU’s Thrive Program. “It’s obvious to those of us who know her that while we can rally around her and provide an environment that supports her success, it is ultimately in her hands, and she's grabbing ahold of it with all she’s got.”

– Travis Highfield

Photos by Rob C. Witzel


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit