Mpaza Kapembwa | Atlanta, GA

Mpaza Kapembwa | Atlanta, GA

Mpaza Kapembwa draws on his own hardships to help others

At my high school’s honors night in May, I was introduced as one of the 253 Coca-Cola Scholars in the class of 2011 (out of 71,000 applicants!). As I looked around the room, I could tell how proud everyone was of me. Most importantly, my mom was proud of me.

After my mother found out I was a semi-finalist for the scholarship, she kept asking me every day, “Una wina?” or “did you win?” in my native dialect, Nyanja. Now that I had “won,” she could not wait to hear what I was going to say on honors night.

She knew that I, as the most outspoken person in my class, had the tendency to touch insidious subjects no matter what the occasion. But this night was all about the people who had gotten me this far and helped me become part of an amazing network of more than 4,000 driven men and women who use their talents to make the future bright for many.

As I gave my speech, I became emotional. I could not believe how far I had come in just the four and a half years since I first arrived in the United States.

Coming to the United States from Zambia provided enormous windows of opportunity for my family, but it also came with numerous challenges. Right after my freshman year of high school, we lost our home. I learned very quickly how to become the man of the house after that, as I started to work 40 hours a week at a local McDonald’s so that we could get our own apartment.

It had never occurred to me that my family had actually been homeless until I started interning with United Way of Metro Atlanta this past summer. The organization focuses on dealing with health, income, education, and homelessness in metro Atlanta. Through my work with United Way, I learned that homelessness means you don’t have a place you call your own home. My mother, sister, and I were living with a friend, but that wasn’t our home. We were homeless.

Such experiences, including growing up in one of the poorest countries on the planet, have inspired me to set my priorities straight. One of my favorite quotes says, “One does not begin to live until he or she can help someone who will never pay back.” Therefore, I have always found a way to help others, even if my family isn’t wealthy.

My initiative in high school to collect clothes for the disadvantaged and donate them to children’s and women’s shelters was largely influenced by my family’s experience when we were homeless. I later joined a friend in forming the Dream Scholarship. We gave out two $500 scholarships to graduating seniors in my class. I look forward to continuing these initiatives in college and beyond.

I will be attending Williams College, a small liberal arts college in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Although not widely known, it was ranked the best college in America by Forbes Magazine. I want to become a professional soccer player while studying Political Science and Spanish.

I was chosen as a Coca-Cola scholar because I expressed my story and how it has led me to act to better my community. A lot of people tell me, “You are African, therefore it is easy for you win scholarships.” But I disagree with that. Every person’s story is unique and worth being expressed. And it is how we express our stories that sets all of us apart.

Mpaza Kapenbwa is a 2011 Scholar from Atlanta, GA who is attending Williams College this fall.

This entry was posted in Community Service, Cultural Awareness, Overcoming Obstacles. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Carolyn Norton says:

    Mpaza, your story is so inspiring, and having met you in person I can say that your “can-do” spirit really does shine through! Thanks for sharing this with our Coke Scholars Alumni!

  2. Noor Yussuf says:

    “You are African, therefore it is easy for you win scholarships.” I was told the same thing more than you can’t image, but that’s not true. You’re a Coca-Cola scholar because of what you do.

    • Mpaza Kapembwa says:

      yeah man. they don’t understand that what made us win is what we did with our stories and how we helped others. thank you.

  3. Tim McCallum says:

    Mpaza!! What an amazing testament to who we are as Scholars!! We are so proud of you!

  4. Patti Ross says:

    I know I am commenting on one of our own, but in addition to the facts of Mpaza’s story, to meet him is a truly engaging experience. He has a bright future, and like many of our other Coca-Cola Scholars, his impact is already being felt by the lives he touches.

  5. Michael Tubbs says:

    You make me proud to be a part of the Coca-Cola scholar family.

  6. Heather Tell says:

    Mpaza, it was my great pleasure to meet and interview you during Scholars’ Weekend. I have no doubt that you will continue to do great things, as you are a very bright young man with an unusual ability to influence others. I recently saw your photo in our local newspaper, “The Dekalb Neighbor”, where you received accolades for your United Way internship. Keep up the fantastic work!

  7. Yehimi Cambron says:

    Mpaza, I wish the world had all the good you have in your heart. I am very proud of you my friend!

  8. Damaris says:

    I do not know you Mpaza but I can see in your face that you are a kind person. I do not know your complete story but knowing where you come from I know you have endured and surpassed more than just homelessness. The world needs more kids like you. God bless you!

  9. Mpaza Kapembwa says:

    Thank you Damarius. Ms. Ross told me about you and I would love to talk to you.

  10. Rehema says:

    Well,its so good,u have a dream to accomplish!and help your mama and sister!

  11. Katasha Pollard says:

    This is a very interesting I enjoyed the reading this I have done many speeches throughout my 4-H and FFA I understand the significance of this and I send my best regards *Sr. 2012*

    • Katasha Pollard says:

      I also am adopted into a big family and we have been through many hardships too hope all has worked out for ya’ll *Sr. 2012*

  12. ifeanyi says:

    helo,mpaza…i really wept while reading your story,am african too and i’m happy you made africa as a whole proud…i want to be a coca cola scholar too,how do i go about it?

  13. y8 games says:

    Thank you so much! it is a pleasure to be of this family.

  14. kizi says:

    nice post, thanks for sharing!

  15. y8 says:

    Thank you so much! it is an honor to be able to share my story.

  16. The world needs more kids like you. God bless you!

  17. Debbie says:

    i would love to be part of this family,how do i go about it?

  18. Emmanuel Stephen says:

    As u model your life to inspire others. God will not forsake you. Believe me, me and you have something in common. I m nigerian. Oraekwe k.c. 2348039595450. Thank you

  19. that you certainly deserves, because you can be proud of.
    Thanks For Sharing

  20. Godswill louie elekpa says:

    Love your spirit n heart…way to go bruh…u r a good person, keep on helping n sharing the less privilege…

  21. kizi says:

    Good post. It is really help to us. Its give us lots of interest and pleasure. Its opportunity are so fantastic and working style so speedy. Its really a good article. It gives me lots of pleasure and interest.

  22. friv 5 says:

    One thing that I care in your post is the thing that I already learnt. Last time I have not fully
    understood it, but now it make me realize a lot of things and I do hope that I can issue my own book about this topic.

  23. friv 6 says:

    This is absolutely great informational content. I think you could make an ebook out of this with some additional information.
    I agree with your views and I think you have a true gift for writing.

  24. friv 7 says:

    Wow, nice post,there are many person searching about that now they will find enough resources by your post.
    Thank you for sharing to us.Please one more post about that..

  25. I truly enjoy looking at on this web site , it has got fantastic blog posts. “Dream no small dreams.
    They have no power to stir the souls of men.” by Victor Hugo.

  26. Hello there and thank you for your info – I have definitely picked up something new from right here.

  27. friv 8 says:

    Very nice post. I just stumble upon your weblog and wished to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts.
    In any case I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

  28. friv 9 says:

    I truly love your design and style of blog. I added this to my favorites blog checklist and will probably be coming again soon.
    Remember to check out my site also and inform me how you feel.

  29. dora games says:

    I like this post, enjoyed this one thankyou for putting up.

  30. I must say that you are pretty good at blogging and you must need to carry on with this all the time. Keep it up.

  31. Liu Chong Chong holding Wang Chu-ying, they cry into a ball.

  32. “Amount, it is a kind of archeology?

    Liu Chong Chong explained that the girl has turned around, and others to talk about aromatherapy oil.

  33. The content and theme of your site is very nice …
    I wish you continued success.
    Hope to see you, bye!

  34. I have found that this site is very informative, interesting and very well written. Just keep on posting.

  35. bizznus says:

    this is a very good site that provides lots of information about the topics covered in depth.

  36. I really appreciate your post. It is very helpful for all the people on the web.

  37. Blog gave us useful information to work. You have done an amazing job!

  38. Its opportunity are so fantastic and working style so speedy. Its really a good article