Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program

Esmeray Olivas – 2017 Third Place High School Essay Winner

IDRA Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program – 2017 Essay Contest


Esmeray Olivas 

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

Imagine if love was captivated; our hearts would become activated. This statement inspired me after I joined the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program. Before I began to volunteer, I had a vague misconception of what love really was. I learned what It takes to love what you do and how to reflect love in my own life from working with my tutees in this program.

When I began to work with my tutees, it required attention, focus and double the patience I thought I had. For example, when I spend time with my student, it gets frustrating, and he has a hard time staying on task or staying focused. This requires me to constantly come up with different ways to grab his attention in order to re-focus on the task. At first I would get just as frustrated as he would. But I noticed that the more I helped him there began to be a shift in my life. I no longer was getting irritated, I was intrigued in the possibilities of him learning. I then realized that it can be very easy to say that you know how to work with kids, but it’s not until you do it that your heart and mind begin to transform.

This is where I began to reflect more. It was no longer about getting paid or wasting time. It became about my heart desiring to help. I began to want the best, to strive for more, to practice kindness, to be slow to anger, to experience achievement together – not only for myself but for others. One day after school I was tired and overwhelmed, but despite the fact that my body was screaming for sleep, I felt this longing in my heart to go the extra mile and help around the house. It was in that decision-making moment that I began to think, not only am I tutoring a kid, I am also practicing unselfish love for whenever I have my own kids and my own home.

It’s when we become a captive audience to our passion that we can become active and volunteer for something else other than ourselves. This is what the definition of true love. I learned patience, kindness and selflessness through the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program and working with my tutee. I encourage everyone to create an open mind, helping hands and a willing heart. Together, we can be known as the generation that learned how to love.

*names changed for privacy


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.