Recently, Coca-Cola Bottling United signed a five-year partnership with Hamilton County Schools to sponsor Hixson High School’s Future Ready Institute.

Established in 2018, the Future Ready Institute at Hixson High offers students the opportunity to develop management and administration skills needed to enter high-growth business sectors. Courses offered through the newly titled Coca-Cola Institute of Business enhance these offerings while preparing learners to enter careers in directing, organizing and evaluating business functions.

Community leaders including Darren Hodges, Tennessee Valley division director, Coca-Cola Bottling United; Lee Ziegler, principal, Hixson High School; and Justin Robertson, superintendent, Hamilton County Schools celebrated the partnership with a signing ceremony, earlier this year.

Holding the check from left to right: Jill Moses, business teacher, Hamilton County Schools; Lee Ziegler, principal, Hixson High School; Darren Hodges, Tennessee Valley division director, Coca-Cola Bottling United

“Having Coca-Cola as a local community partner on this branded institute offers a unique opportunity for our students to gain valuable resources, support and collaboration from a local Chattanooga leader for over 100 years. We look forward to seeing how this partnership deepens not only our community connections but also our students’ success,” Robertson said.

TREND interviewed Hodges to learn more about Coca-Cola’s decision to sponsor this Future Ready Institute:

TREND: Coca-Cola has partnered with community members in Chattanooga for over 100 years, what made you decide to partner with Hamilton County Schools?

Hodges: We looked to our friends at Rock City and what they’re doing at Howard High School. I spoke with Susan Harris, [Rock City’s] former CEO, and their experience helped lead us down this path. We had [originally] talked about doing supply chain logistics but learned that U.S. Express was already doing that. With the help of Dr. Gregory Bagby [coordinator of instructional technology, Hamilton County Schools], we decided to partner with a business institute instead. This decision made sense as business and marketing is who we are. There are several business institutes in Hamilton County, but Hixson High School did not yet have a partner and we felt this was our best opportunity.

TREND: The Future Ready Institute at Hixson High School has operated since 2018. As a sponsor, what would you hope to see moving forward?

Hodges: This [institute] to me is somewhat of a recruiting tool – not just for us, but for the community as well. There are small businesses within the community that are looking for great [candidates] right out of high school. They will now have access to business leaders that they didn’t have before.

Hodges also spoke on how talent development benefits the local bottling plant in a recent Greater Chattanooga Partnership video, found below:

There are 29 Future Ready Institutes throughout Hamilton County Schools’ footprint, including the Institute of Aviation at Brainerd High, the Erlanger Institute of Healthcare & Innovation at Howard High, and the recently established NOVONIX Institute of Advanced Battery Technology at Lookout Valley Middle High.

With the latest institute in Hixson, Coca-Cola became the 10th branded partner of a Hamilton County Schools’ Future Ready Institute program.

Learn more about sponsoring a Future Ready Institute, here.

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