Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program

Jennifer Vela – 2017 Second Place Middle School Essay Winner

IDRA Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program – 2017 Essay Contest


Jennifer Vela 

7th Grade, Domingo Treviño Middle School, La Joya ISD, Texas. Winner: Middle School Second Place

I was a shy, depressed girl, that didn’t talk to a lot of people, and never looked on the good side of things. That all changed when I got in the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program and started to tutor. I had a reason to laugh, I could finally see the good things and it was all because of my tutees.

At first when I found out about the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program, I wanted to be included in it because I knew we were going to get paid. The first day we went to the elementary school to tutor the tutees, I was so nervous because I don’t usually talk to a lot of people, and I didn’t know how it was going to be. When I entered the class along with Daisy, Mrs. García the teacher told us who we were working with and what we were going to help them with. We started working with our tutees in a separate area. My tutees were Oscar, Ben, Nia and Isiah*. Jose needed help in reading and math, Felix in vocabulary and math, Samantha in reading, and Rasheed in reading and writing. I slowly became less nervous and began teaching them.

After some time passed, I got to know more about my tutees, and they got better in the subjects they were having a hard time with. One day when I entered I noticed something different in one my tutees, it was Nia. She had her hair different almost like mine. When I was working with Nia, I asked why she changed her hair and told her it looked nice, and she said because you have your hair like that and it looks pretty. I then realized I was a role model to my tutees. I was someone they looked up to. From then on tutoring began to mean a lot to me.

I grew to enjoy tutoring and I liked to go help the kids. Every day I did it less for the money and more for the tutees. I always had a smile on my face when I left. I changed in many ways from then on. I became a better person, more responsible, respectful, passionate, understanding, and my perspective changed. I look on the bright side of things all thanks to my tutees. Because I became a tutor, life has endless possibilities, dreams and goals for me. I can truly say I’ve learned a lot from tutoring. I could not have asked for a better gift than having the ability to change the lives of these children. Being in this program, it’s all for the future of the tutees not about the fact that you’re getting paid, and I truly hope that this program helps change people like it has changed me. Because of this program, students like me have had the chance to see what it’s like to teach someone and change their lives.

The Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program offers an excellent experience to young teenagers. This program has changed the way I view things immensely. Since I became a tutor, my life has gone through a positive drastic change. This program really is life changing. It has been an honor being in the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program.

*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.