So let’s talk about the Pay It Forward Program. How did you get involved with it?
Well, Coca-Cola’s my original family. It’s the first thing I ever did [in entertainment] . They put me on the map, they believed in me, they gave me a shot and changed my life forever. And after all of these years of doing bits and pieces of things with Coca-Cola, I finally got all the way back in with my original family. And I know what Coca-Cola has done for my life and my family so I decided this is something that makes all the sense in the world. I’m always about paying it forward and trying to impact the lives of others and use my stage of influence to try and impact the lives of others. Sometimes, we just need help getting over that initial start. And through prayer and following up, you’re able to get a hold of the rest of the $5,000 donation towards your child’s college fund. I’m just very proud to be the voice of this movement of helping to donate this money and paying forward through Coca-Cola.
You’re from the Watts, California community and you see a lot of what’s going on. You often talk about a program like this and the kids who grow up in Watts and other predominantly black neighborhoods in America. How does a program like this help kids to get to that next step?
I wish there was more, we are working on that. But sometimes, folks just need that initial start, a little help to get over that initial start. Paying for college is very expensive, but this is a good start. A $5,000 donation towards your kids education, we are looking at students to get involved from age 9. You can go to the website and get more details and more information if you’re a student or if you’re a parent. We encourage you all to go to the website to get more details about this program.
We got a chance to see that you gave a scholarship to a kid in Compton, California. Why was it important for you to reach back and help?
Because that’s once again an example of a good kid that grew up in an environment and he didn’t allow for his environment to define who he is and what his life’s anticipations were. He just wanted somebody to believe in him, get his foot in the door, give him a shot. And he is now an A plus student at Morehouse College and I took a liking to the kid and pretty much do whatever I can do to help him get through.
When it’s all said and done, what do you want the overall impact to be?
I just want people to be able to say, ‘I never heard of the program until Tyrese got involved and clearly we know about the relationship between Tyrese and Coca-Cola.’ I just needed someone to give me a shot and it has been 20 years since my original family at Coca-Cola gave me a shot and I’ve been riding this wave. I’ve been able to get my foot in the door, have someone to believe in me, and give me a shot so that I could ride this wave and I just want to be able to create that for other people.
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