Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program

Melanie Esparza – 2018 Third Place High School Essay Winner

IDRA Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program – 2018 Essay Contest

Melanie Esparza

9th Grade, South San Antonio High School, South San Antonio ISD, Texas

How the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program Changed Me
The Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program made me open my eyes and has given me reasons that I should come to school every day, and that’s exactly what I’m doing for my Pre-K tutees.

The Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program not only opened my eyes but also taught me to be responsible with my schoolwork and attendance. My grades used to be from 40 to 60 in English and Algebra. I was losing interest in school because of my grades being low. I now feel good about seeing my progress reports and report cards! Even though some people tell me they’re not good enough and make me feel like giving up, I stop and think that I do work hard and do my best not only because my Pre-K tutees inspired me, but because my teacher for Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program, Mrs. Ortega, pushes me to work harder than any other teacher has done for me.

However, all those good grades have made my attendance much better as compared to other years. I used to skip classes or not show up to school. I’m always in class and especially on time, and not only that, I’m sometimes even the first person to get to class. I see no reason to miss a day of school, especially the days I tutor my tutees: Janie, Lee, and Alan.* I know they enjoy me being there, and I wouldn’t want to miss a day of seeing their smiling faces. That makes my day go on a lot better. Those good morning little hugs they give me really make me love being there and giving them the help they need.

Being in the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program really made me think a lot about my future. I’ve never thought about being a Pre-K teacher until now. Me tutoring the Pre-K classroom tutees gets me thinking about my future. I can actually see myself loving to wake up every morning with no hesitation, to teach the smiling faces that made my day, to be my own Pre-K classroom in the future. I have learned that responsibility and dedication are important to be a good role model and a teacher one day. The Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program has changed me, and I am determined to follow my dreams.

*names changed for privacy


See color highlights flier for 2018 (pdf).

See the booklet with all the winning essays from 2018 (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 718,000 children, families and educators have been positively impacted by the program.