Pay it forward this Black History Month

Grammy Award-winner and philanthropist Ne-Yo, fashion designer Tracy Reese and Essence president Michelle Ebanks joined Coca-Cola Feb.1 in a refreshing new Black History Month program urging African Americans to “pay it forward” to the next generation.

The program aims to cultivate history yet to come, with the launch of “Coca-Cola Pay It Forward.” The program includes a public service challenge and online contest offering teens once-in-a-lifetime apprenticeship experiences with some of today’s leading celebrity history makers — Ne-Yo, Reese and Ebanks.

Coca Cola Pay It Forward is designed to inspire African Americans to take an active role in empowering today’s youth to become tomorrow’s history makers.

“The progtram charges each of us with the responsibility to advance the next generation,” said Kimberly Paige, assistant vice president, African American Marketing Group, Coca-Cola North America.

“By drinking and supporting Coca-Cola, our consumers make it possible for us to pay it forward with this one-of-a-kind opportunity. We strongly encourage moms and dads to participate in the mission – simply by nominating their teens for the unique apprenticeship experiences. We also invite the rest of the country to pay it forward to young people in their homes and communities – helping them to achieve their education and career goals this Black History Month and beyond.”

Parents can go to My Coke Rewards ( and nominate their child, age 16-19, for a chance to win an apprentice experience.

The four “mom approved” and “teen endorsed” apprenticeships will focus on the following areas: fashion (Reese), business (Ebanks), music/entertainment and community/philanthropy (Ne-Yo). Winners will spend a week this summer in New York City or Atlanta being mentored by and shadowing their celebrity history makers and teams. Teens are also invited to nominate themselves. The contest runs through March 15.

“We have all benefitted from those who came before us; our success stands on their shoulders,” said Ne-Yo, recording artist, songwriter, producer, actor and founder of The Compound Foundation. “Without my mom and mentors, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I am happy, through my charity, The Compound Foundation, to partner with Coca-Cola and help pay it forward to the next generation.”

In addition to awarding the national celebrity apprenticeship experiences, Coca-Cola will leverage corporate and community partnerships to provide local opportunities in select cities, including Atlanta, Memphis, Detroit, Birmingham and Chicago, expanding the program’s reach.

The Coca-Cola Pay It Forward Movement

Coca-Cola urges African Americans to join in its national movement to pay it forward to the teens in their lives by helping them achieve their education and career aspirations. A public service announcement featuring Ne-Yo will run on radio stations across the country issuing the “Pay It Forward” challenge.

Paige encourages every adult to become involved with a youth by: mentoring; offering inspirational words; helping with homework; and exposing him or her to different career opportunities. The public is invited to share ways it is paying it forward this month by posting its contributions on Twitter and using the hashtag #PayItForward.

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