Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program

Jimena Guerrero – 2017 First Place Middle School Essay Winner

IDRA Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program – 2017 Essay Contest


Jimena Guerrero 

8th Grade, Zamora Middle School, South San Antonio ISD, Texas. Winner: Middle School First Place

How Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program Changed My Life

My name is Jimena Guerrero, I’m 13 years old, and I’m part of the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program at Robert C. Zamora Middle School. I wasn’t necessarily chosen to be in this program, so I asked Mrs. Saldana about the program and she had an open spot for me to join. I did it mainly for the money because my mom needed help with bills, and my sister just wasn’t going to help. I went home and told my mom I had joined, she was very happy. She understood it wasn’t a lot of money, but she was still happy. I was at least putting in some effort. Like I said, it wasn’t necessarily to help the students, it was to help my family. But since I joined this program, I have learned many things that I feel will benefit me in the future.

Ever since I started this Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program, I feel like I am a different person. Last year, I had a rough year: constantly on campus suspension, referrals, verbally disrespecting teachers, and I would go along with my “friends” making bad choices. Now those people that were my so called friends are strangers to me. I realized they weren’t real friends, while all along I was the one taking the blame for our behavior.

I’m trying to teach my first grade tutee reading skills but also life lessons through my experiences. I hope to teach him how to respect teachers and older people and also to treat others the way you would want to be treated. I just wanted to take advantage of the fact that, as a tutor, I can teach him all I can, because I never had a tutor when I was younger, and I really wish I would have. It would have helped me a lot in certain situations. Looking back at last year when I used to talk back to teachers constantly, every day, I realized that there was no point in disrespecting my teacher, not just because he was a teacher but because he was an adult.

I really enjoy going to Benavidez Elementary School to tutor my tutee, Johnathan*. He’s very quiet and doesn’t know how smart he is. I enjoy going to his classroom and seeing all his classmates. Johnathan has made significant improvements in his reading and writing skills. I hope to keep attending his classroom to help him with his progress. I believe Johnathan will soon reach his reading and writing level, and I encourage him to do that every day.

Now that I have joined this program, I feel I want to become a teacher and work around younger children. I think my experiences with the children have enhanced my perspective. This is why I plan on educating children in the future. I really enjoy it and becoming a teacher will be a profitable career for me. It has opened up my eyes to many possibilities.

This program has not only helped me choose what I want to do when I get older, but it also has taught me how to communicate with younger students, and it has taught me many life lessons I will use in the future. Being in this program has impacted my life, now I am more patient, caring and understanding, I have learned to appreciate being around younger children.

*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.