Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program

Santiago Sosa – 2018 First Place High School Essay Winner

IDRA Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program – 2018 Essay Contest

Santiago Sosa

11th Grade, Odessa High School, Ector County ISD, Texas

Have you ever been told “no” by an adult before? If you said “no,” then you must have had the best childhood ever. Every day a child is told “no” by an adult. Why? Why must adults say “no”? When a child does something either good or bad, they will always learn from it. These actions will always better a child’s intellect, because they are learning and growing their mindsets.

When I was in elementary school, I was put into a dyslexic program to better myself in reading. No problem, right? I was in the third grade and around that time, my peers were checking out chapter books. I had a lower reading level and never got the chance to read chapter books. One day, I got the courage to check out a Junie B. Jones book. I went to check out the book, and the librarian told me, “I know your reading level isn’t that high, please get another book that’s at a dyslexic level.” My high hopes were shattered because of what the librarian told me. I turned around and went back to my class with no books. My classroom teacher asked me, “Where are your books?” I told her the situation, and she marched me right down to the library and checked out the Junie B. Jones book for me. I realized that she believed in me.

There are many reasons as to why joined this the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program, and I could go on and on as to why I stayed. I wouldn’t even be writing this if it wasn’t for my tutee who reminded me how hard it can be to learn differently from others.

A few months ago, I walked into his classroom, and I noticed that he wasn’t as cheerful as usual. I walked to his desk and asked him why he was so down. The thing is, my tutee is always in a great mood; nothing really brings him down. Then he told me that he made a low score on his AR book test. I told him that it was okay and that it just means that he would just have to try harder next time. I thought I was in the right that I told him that, but when I looked at his face, tears were falling down his cheeks. I told him that I didn’t mean to make him sad and asked what was wrong. He told me that one of his classmates called him “dumb,” and I instantly understood why he was so mad. His so-called friend then told him, “That’s exactly why you have a tutor because you need help because you’re dumb.”

This is exactly why I stayed in the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program: I know the struggles of being pulled out of class and the embarrassment of being pulled out in front of your classmates. I told my tutee to let them make fun of you, but in the end, they are the ones who are dumb, that there is nothing wrong with you learning and getting extra help from me and your teacher.

To this day, I thank my third-grade teacher because she believed in me when no one else did; and I hope I am leaving that kind of impact on my tutee. “Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you” (Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin). Our experiences make us who we are. While my experience in third grade was hard, I learned that teachers are the ones who can help you see your true value. It also prepared me to work with my tutee, to show him that there are people who care, and that’s what is important in life.


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.