Cage Sawyers, a senior at Van Alstyne High School, was chosen to be one of the recipients of the 2017 Coca-Cola Scholarship. Sawyers is one of 150 high school seniors to receive the $20,000 national award coveted by students across the country.

Roughly 186,000 students filled out the lengthy scholarship application, in what Executive Director of the Van Alstyne Education Foundation Dacia McBryde described as a daunting process.

The number of eligible students was then reduced to 86,000, Sawyers said. Sawyers was named one of the 2,500 students who qualified as a semi-finalist, before earning a top 500 spot as a national finalist.

“At this point, I had to interview with the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation board, then I was selected as a Coca-Cola Scholar (top 150),” Sawyers said in an email to the Leader. “That is 0.0017 percent and 1/573.”

After learning that he was chosen as a Coca-Cola Scholar, Sawyers was able to attend a special weekend in Atlanta, Georgia, for the 2017 Coca-Cola Scholars.

“My favorite part about the scholars weekend was interacting with the Coca-Cola CEO, James Quincey, at the Coca-Cola corporate headquarters,” Sawyers said in his email.

Sawyers attended a banquet at the Georgia International Convention Center on his first night in Atlanta, an event attended by the Governor of Georgia, a Delta Airlines CEO and Coca-Cola executives. The following day he was taken through leadership courses that were guided by a Stanford MBA dean. The final day of the weekend involved community service and a farewell dinner and dance at the Coca-Cola world headquarters.

The weekend in Atlanta also provided Sawyers with the opportunity to interact with some of the other scholarship recipients.

“I enjoyed being exposed to the other scholars and their global cultures and volunteering at an elementary school in inter-city Atlanta,” he said over email.

Sawyers estimates that only about 3 of the 150 scholarship recipients were from small towns. He said he hopes that winning the award can show other Van Alstyne youth that small town students have zero limitations for opportunities.

“Not only am I humbled and prideful in this accomplishment, I pray it is a beacon of hope to the youth in Van Alstyne,” Sawyers said in his email.

Sawyers's parents, Vincent and Dionne, said that they were unaware of the exclusivity and prestige of the award when their son first applied for it. They praised their son for his grades, extracurricular activities and work experience that made him eligible for the national honor.

“It was truly a high honor for our family and our community,” his parents said in an emailed statement, adding that the award is the pinnacle of her son's 12-year educational journey.

Sawyers's parents also praised Coca-Cola for affording their family and community such an opportunity.

“Cage is a great student and has worked very hard to get where he is now,” McBryde said. “He will do great things at TCU and has a bright future ahead of him.”

After graduation, Sawyers plans to attend Texas Christian University and study Entrepreneurship and Pre-Law with minors in Spanish and Petroleum.

“I hope the accomplishment can also serve as a reward to the town and the people in Van Alstyne, because after all, they have both molded me into the person I am today,” Sawyers said.