Coca-Cola UNITED’s “Pay It Forward” Program

coca cola pay it forward
Photo: Amarr Croskey, for the Birmingham Times

Coca-Cola UNITED just entered the fourth year of its Pay It Forward program, an internship program for HBCU students in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and Louisiana. 

Applications were reviewed by the company in April, and 28 students were selected.

Eight students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities around the state of Alabama were part of the 2019 class:

  • Bryant Williams from Alabama State University
  • Jada Jamison-Belser from Alabama State University
  • Brianna Jones from Miles College
  • Gabrielle Williams from Stillman College
  • Pablo Vallejo from Stillman College
  • Simone Brown from Talladega College
  • Kendarius Hale-Youngblood from Talladega College
  • Zalkari “Zak” Thornton from Tuskegee University

Ten students were chosen from the West region:

  • Jonah Bushell from Alcorn State University
  • Hollie James from Alcorn State University
  • Amyre Brandom Xavier University of Louisiana
  • Lauryn Williams from Xavier University of Louisiana
  • Raejenay Cash from Grambling State University
  • Shanya Espy from Grambling State University
  • Michael Patterson from Southern University
  • Joli Gill from Southern University
  • Breyette Jones from Dillard University
  • Tazhawn Moliere from Dillard University


Ten students were chosen from the East Region:

  • Terreanna Braud from Clark-Atlanta University
  • Alake Jacobs from Clark-Atlanta University
  • Jemimah Semexant from Fort Valley State University
  • Miles Gunby from Fort Valley State University
  • Alvin Doss from Morehouse College
  • Sean Snowden from Morehouse College
  • Rashaun Inman from Savannah State University
  • Kerrington Gilliard from Savannah State University
  • Audra Davison from Spelman College
  • Nicole Precht-Terrell from Spelman College

During this week-long internship, students get to experience a wide range of roles available here at Coca-Cola including sales, production, marketing, pricing, event planning, packaging, philanthropy, and community relations. One of the main goals of the program is to teach the interns, to put it simply, how to go to work. It teaches them how to read statements, how to network with others in their industry, and other important skills that will get them ready for the job market. 

“We are excited to meet and get to know these exceptional HBCU students as they join us for their internship week,” said Susanne Hall, Vice President, West Region, Coca-Cola Bottling Company UNITED. “Our goal is to provide these interns with the opportunity to develop their career goals further and to gather valuable perspective as they plan for their next phase in life.”

On Monday, July 29, in Birmingham, Alabama, the West Region students toured the facility and got familiar with the program. That evening, they got to attend a meet and greet at Top Golf with other HBCU graduates, and participate in a panel discussion about the importance of Paying It Forward. One of the panelists, Eric Guster, explained how his HBCU gave him the confidence he needed to go on to do great things after college. 

The interns learned a lot in a short amount of time. One of the students, Bryant Williams, said one of the most important things he learned that week was that it’s his job to support his fellow peers, and that helping each other out is a very important part of college and life. 

The Pay It Forward program is built on the understanding of what the “H” means in HBCU—historically. These colleges and universities started out with very little money and very few resources, but they started for an incredibly important reason that we should all support. The program continues to be a great experience for the Coca-Cola UNITED staff, and for the students who participate—hopefully for years to come.