Students win Coca-Cola United ‘Pay It Forward’ internships!

Staff Report

Alabama State University has two of its students chosen by Coca-Cola Bottling Company UNITED, Inc. as the winners of its “Pay It Forward” program, which has as its goal to provide African-American youth with opportunities to further their success with Coca-Cola corporate internships and a cash stipend of $1,000.

ASU student’s Micah Hardge and Marion Brock, IV are winners in the Central Alabama region for this acclaimed program. This year, the usual in-person experience is virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the $1,000 stipend is as “real as it gets,” according to ASU’s winning students. The internship allows each student to engage with Coca-Cola corporate company team members to learn more about the organization and how to conduct business most effectively.

“Winning this corporate internship with Coca-Cola United, one of the most iconic brands in the world, was a great surprise and was a tremendous experience for me since being involved in branding is one of my professional goals,” said Micah Hardge, a communication’s senior and a Phenix City, Ala. native.

Brock, the University’s other winner, is a Montgomery native and a third-generation ASU Hornet. 

“Winning this internship has been a big confidence builder for me. Not only for winning it and the $1,000 that goes with it, but also in it allowing me to interact with the Coca-Cola executives who convinced me that I am in control of my future, my life, and gave me great insight on how I may make the best of it,” said Brock, a senior marketing major, who desires to be a CPA. Brock’s father (Marion) is an ASU alumnus, employee and president of the ASU Non-Instructional Staff Council.


The Coca-Cola UNITED’s six-state corporate footprint had students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s) from 16 schools submit applications during the Spring 2020 semester. The program’s leaders selected “standout” students based on their applications. 


The winning students gain experience during the internship in a wide range of roles 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 how to go to work, say company officials. The winners are exposed to real-world work situations, including business practices and protocols, how to network, and other important skills that will prepare them for life after graduation.

The president and CEO of Coca-Cola Bottling Company UNITED, Inc. is John Sherman; who says its internship program is now in its fifth year. 

“Although we will not be able to meet these students in-person this year, we are excited to get to know this remarkable group of ‘Pay It Forward’ interns,” Sherman said. “Our intent through the program is to encourage these young adults and help enable them to further develop career goals as they plan for the next phase in life.” 


Both Brock and Hardge said being students at Alabama State University has not only given them a ‘hands-up’ over the competition to win their respective scholarships, but also will help them to excel in their chosen professions, and in life.

“I was struggling with my education before I came to ASU and my professors and advisers here have shown me the way and helped me to take control of both my academics and my life. I am educated and motivated, thanks to The Alabama State University,” Brock stated.

Hardge believes studying at an HBCU like Alabama State University has made a big difference in his life.

“The University has helped me in many ways, but foremost is the rich educational experience of going to and graduating from an HBCU; especially one with such a historic background as ASU,” Hardge asserted. “Being here on campus has benefited me in such a varied and wonderful way, which has been one of the greatest experiences of my life.”


Coca-Cola Bottling Company United, Inc. was founded in 1902 and is headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama. It is the second-largest privately held Coca-Cola bottler in North America, and the third-largest bottler of Coca-Cola products in the U.S. Now with its fifth generation of family working in the business, Coca-Cola UNITED has approximately 10,000 associates located in more than 60 facilities across six southeastern states, which include Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Historically significant franchises within our Coca-Cola UNITED family include Chattanooga, the world’s first Coca-Cola bottler; Atlanta, home of the worldwide Coca-Cola System; and Columbus, Georgia, development site of the original Coca-Cola formula.