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Common, Magic Johnson “Pay It Forward”

February 8, 2013
Douglass High School

The conference room at the Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia bustled with nerves and excitement as the photographers and journalists in the brightly lit room prepared for the opportunity of a lifetime. The atmosphere at neither the noisiest NBA game nor the largest sold out concert could compare to the energy that was palpable inside the room. With the arrival of the six foot nine NBA legend, Earvin Magic Johnson, and the award-winning musician/actor, Common, the anxiety ceased. Each star entered the room and captivated every person in it with his positivity and humble nature. The anxiety and preconceived notions proved to be no match for the genuine and warm personalities of two of the biggest names in the sports and entertainment world. 

Common and Magic Johnson were very similar to the ambitious teens of today when they were growing up. Now that they have become legends in their respective fields, they are providing stepping-stones for the next generation through their involvement in their own foundations as well as Coca-Cola’s "Pay It Forward" program. The two have teamed up with Coca Cola to offer exciting apprentice programs to aspiring youth and they are extremely excited to allow four teens to shadow them for a week during the upcoming summer. 

 “We’re blessed to be in this position to help teens and encourage them to be successful,” Johnson said.

During the up close and personal interview, they explained how vital it is to be a driving force in the process of inspiring teens. Their work with teenagers through their own programs, The Common Ground Foundation and the Magic Johnson Foundation, make their involvement with "Pay It Forward" a natural fit.

“We’re still a part of the neighborhood,” Johnson said. “Somebody helped us along the way and we just want to do the same for others.”  He wants teens to understand that although he is in a position of power and influence, he is still very much aware of the problems that teens face everyday and is committed to helping address them.

Common credits his mother with instilling a passion for helping others in him. “My mother showed me by example how important it is to give back and she reinforced the idea of helping others. I also had a teacher, Mr. Brown, who always pushed us and wanted to see us at our best. Knowing that somebody cares that much drives you.”

The two have taken the knowledge and experiences gained from their personal lives to encourage a spirit of helping other people reach their goals.

When asked to share the advice he would give to a severely troubled teen, Johnson explained, “First, I think you must understand why you are troubled. We all have our troubles. Trust me, I’ve done things as a young person that I’ve regretted. Athletes, entertainers have all done things that were wrong, but what they did do is they changed.”  Johnson encourages teens to identify the problem and take the necessary steps to change the behavior. “No matter what, you can always change,” he said.

Likewise, Common tells teens, “There is always a tomorrow.” He encourages teens to value and to love themselves and to work hard to accomplish their dreams. “Some of the greatest people have come from the most difficult situations,” he said.  He says that working with young people and helping them to get on the right track to reach their career goals is heart-warming. “I feel inspired to do it… When I have opportunities like this one to be a part of the Coca Cola "Pay It Forward" program, and ones with the Common Ground Foundation, I feel I am fulfilling my life’s purpose. I am blessed to do it,” he said.

Magic Johnson and Common are providing students with an opportunity to follow their dreams and gain the experience of a lifetime through the "Pay it Forward" program. To learn more about the program or to nominate a young person for the apprenticeship experiences visit My Coke Rewards (www.mycokerewards.com/payitforward) now through March 2.  Coca Cola encourages students to share how they are paying it forward by joining the conversation on Twitter, using the hashtag #CokePayItForward.

by Amber Hughes and Devion Lewis 


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