Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program

Anahi Ayala – 2017 Second Place High School Essay Winner

IDRA Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program – 2017 Essay Contest


Anahi Ayala 

12th Grade, Odessa High School, Ector County ISD, Texas. Winner: High School Second Place

Never did I think, in all my years of school, that a program like this would possibly change the outlook on my future. The Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program has been the first school program that I have ever been a part of. I was never one to be accepted into any fun electives; I was always stuck in taking business classes or accounting. Don’t get me wrong, they were amazing classes and I learned a lot, but I never imagined my future self having a passion for business. After the first semester in the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program something changed: I discovered I wanted to become a teacher.

At the beginning of the year, my parents always asked, “What are you going to study in college after you graduate?” Since I was a senior in high school, I had to have something figured out, but I had no clue what I wanted to do. My parents always told me to get into a career that pays well, but a career as a doctor or an accountant would never be a career I would love, I was so frustrated and confused, thinking maybe I shouldn’t even go to college. My thoughts were: why pay for an education in a career I will never genuinely be fond of. For me the thought of my future career was just a big blur to me.

The day I joined the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program was the day my thoughts for my future became clear. It was the day I became a tutor and met my tutee. My tutee struggled through the first semester of school trying his hardest to learn his alphabet and how to sound out words. Toward the last week before break, he did the most amazing thing: he read a sentence all by himself! To anyone else this may seem like it’s not a big deal, but to me, it was like climbing to the top of the mountain. The emotions I felt when he was reading filled me with glee. It hit me that I was part of the reason he knows how to read, that because of my help, he could now see letters and put them into words!

That day was the best day because I realized I could change a kid’s life. This realization opened my career options. The work and activities I made for my tutees made me feel like this was my calling. After all the struggling I put myself through on finding the right career, the Coca-Cola Valued Youth helped me realize that teaching is my future profession. This Coca-Cola Valued Youth program has sincerely been a blessing to me.


See color highlights flier for 2017 (pdf).

See the booklet with all the winning essays from 2017 (pdf).

The Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program, created by IDRA, is an internationally-recognized cross-age tutoring program. According to the Valued Youth creed, all students are valuable, none is expendable. The lives of more than 671,000 children, families and educators have been positively impacted by the program.