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Lauventria Robinson discusses Coca-Cola's Pay It Forward program and its ambassador, Steve Harvey

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The Coca-Cola Pay It Forward program serves as an empowerment platform for mothers to help guide their kids to academic success. Steve Harvey is the ambassador of the program, which will offer 20 winners $5,000 each and an invitation to the Coca-Cola Pay It Forward Academy.

Coca-Cola’s Lauventria Robinson recently spoke with rolling out to provide insight on this year’s program.

What should our readers know about Coca-Cola’s Pay It Forward program?

We’ve been doing this program for a couple of years. We really feel it’s important to connect with youth and really help them get ready to take on the next level in terms of college. But we’re real excited this year because we did a couple of significant changes to the program. The first thing is that we significantly increased the amount of winners. Last year we had two winners. In the past, we’ve had four winners. This year, we have 20 winners. So those 20 winners, they all win a $5,000 scholarship. Even more importantly, we’ve added this new component, which is the Coca-Cola Pay It Forward Academy. We’re going to bring those winners, plus a guardian to Atlanta and we’re going to take through all you need to know to prepare for college. So we’ll have a few celebrities. We’ll have a lot of folks who have a lot of knowledge about the college process and how to get scholarships and all of that. So we really want to help prepare both mom or the guardian as well as the student to be ready for college. So we’re really excited about it.

When it comes to preparing for college, how will this program help to ease the transition into college?

Well a couple of ways. When I went to college, I was the first in my family to go. So I know there were a lot of things that my mom didn’t know. We are partnered with Get Schooled. What that organization does is it really has a lot of detailed information in terms of what classes you need to take, how you need to prepare, the application process, what an essay needs to look like. So we’re really going to give these parents as well as these students really good insight. Here is the process, here is the timeline, and here is when you need to start to really be prepared to go to college. And it helps them to understand once you’re in college, how to make sure that you stay there. All of these resources we are going to be providing at their particular Pay It Forward Academy. So it’s really about helping mom and her student be ready.

Why was it important to have Steve Harvey serve as ambassador?

A couple of reasons. One, Steve has been very open and very passionate about his commitment to really support youth and in particular to support youth in terms of education. He’s done lots of different things that you are aware of. So for us, he was the perfect ambassador. The other thing is, he really has a connection with African American moms. The African American community in general, but in particular with African American moms. With so many of our households headed by single women, we really thought that he would be a really strong advocate and voice to help prepare [children] for college. He’s been an absolute great partner. Because it’s something he believes in, he’s not doing it just to do it. It’s something that he’s passionate about.