By Keri Herndon-Brown
If you’re my age, when you hear “have a Coke and a smile”, you probably think of Eddie Murphy impersonating Richard Pryor telling Eddie what to do if Bill Cosby ever tries to tell him how to be a comedian. It’s a classic line from Eddie’s 1987 Raw stand-up movie that has endured the almost 30 years since it was released. However, fast forward 9 or 10 more years and it’s 1996 and “a Coke and smile” mean something totally different. It symbolizes a beautiful black man singing on a bus and becoming the new face and voice of the iconic soda. Tyrese Gibson debuted his incredible talent then and now, twenty years later, is rekindling his relationship with Coca-Cola for its Pay it Forward mentorship program.
On Friday, March 25 a small group of Atlanta’s most influential social media ladies and gents met up at the Coca-Cola Headquarters to meet with International film and music star Tyrese Gibson. On this beautiful spring day, Tyrese showed up very emotional as plenty of wonderful emotions flooded his mind as he reflected on all his accomplishments over the years that all started with Coke. We all anxiously awaited his arrival while snacking on delicious popcorn, desserts and of course…COKE!
Tyrese is a star. With six Grammy nominations, multiple movie blockbusters such as The Fast and Furious and Transformers franchises and books to his credit, he is the ideal celebrity to add to a bridge being built by Coke’s Pay it Forward initiative. In the Twitter universe, he is the “Vision Implementer” and is committed to helping those who want to help themselves. He knows he has a purpose on this planet and is not procrastinating in doing what he’s supposed to. Coke recognized this and hand selected him to be the person to represent their scholarship that will award 22 high school students with $5000 each for college.
$5,000 is nothing to sneeze at given the cost of college nowadays and Coke is proud to be in a position to award over $100,000 annually to deserving students. Tyrese’s own foundation, awards $50,000 dollars annually to a student from Compton, CA thus he knows the importance of having the resources to meet educational goals.
As an international film star, he was clearly humbled and honored to be named the celebrity ambassador for Coca-Cola PayItForward. He was emotional and stated that his mind and heart were full of wonderful feelings as he reflected on far he has come since he started with Coke 20 years ago.
In its fifth year, the Coca-Cola Pay It Forward program is cementing itself as one of the premier corporate philanthropic opportunities. Now through March 31st, anyone over the age of 13 can nominate themselves or others 13 years old and over for a chance to win. Below are the specific requirements to apply:
Program is open to high school teens in grades 9-12
- Nominators and nominees must be 13 years of age or older
- Eligible teens can nominate themselves
- Nominations should be made on the program’s website www.coke.com/payitforward
- Up to twenty-five, winners will be selected
- Each winner will receive a $5,000 scholarship and a trip from their hometown for them and their mom/legal guardian to attend the Coca-Cola Pay It Forward Academy July 22-24, 2016 in Atlanta, GA (with Tyrese!)
While Tyrese, himself did not attend college he does understand the importance of having a dream, pursuing it and never looking back. He believes in influencing people through his business ventures as well as his social media platforms.
Tyrese attributes much of his success to the mentors he had in his life including his high school music teacher Reggie Andrews for creating MOLD = Men Of Locke Delegation.
He’s excited to be an ambassador for the Pay It Forward program because he believes “it doesn’t have to be lonely at the top if you help others get there.”
The contest closes on March 31st so be sure to nominate someone today! Coke.com/PayItForward;