• by Felix Montes, Ph.D. • IDRA Newsletter • October 2012 • 

Note: This is an overview of IDRA’s analysis. A more extended version is available on the IDRA website.

IDRA’s Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program is a research-based dropout prevention program that since 1984 has been implemented in schools across the United States as well as Puerto Rico and the United Kingdom. As the program’s 13-year presence in Brazil has recently come to a close, we reflect on its both its impact and legacy.

In May 1998, the leaders of IDRA, Coca-Cola Brazil, PANAMCO/Spal and the secretaries of education of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo met to consider the implementation of the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program in Brazil. As a result of that meeting, a successful pilot test was launched the next year. With the success of the pilot test, the program expanded from two schools in 1999 to a peak of 46 schools in 2007. During its 13 years, 36,536 students benefited directly from the program.

The dropout rate is the key statistic in a program of this nature. With a 13-year dropout rate of only 2.2 percent, the program was successful in keeping students in school in Brazil. This compares favorably with national averages of between 6.9 percent (official figure) and 13.5 percent (unofficial figure).

The evaluation of the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program was an integral component of the program implementation. The teacher coordinators evaluated the tutors at the beginning and end of each school year in three general areas: behavior, relationships and academics through 15 constructs, from self-concept to desire to graduate. The analysis showed that, each year, the ratings increased significantly in all areas after participation. This suggests that the students experienced profound changes in their lives as a result of their participation in the program. The tutors’ parents confirmed this assessment. Clearly, the program represented a turning point for these tutors, their families and the schools.

As the program comes to a close in Brazil, it is important to reflect on the lessons learned during these 13 years of implementation to inform future efforts in Brazil, in the United States and elsewhere.

Here are some of the most relevant lessons:

  • The heart of the program is the concept of valuing youth. The implementation in Brazil confirmed that this concept can be the fundamental core of any program designed to re-incorporate into the educational track students at risk of leaving the school, in a variety of national or cultural settings.
  • The program’s rigorous evaluation enabled understanding of its impact on participants objectively and provided guidance for program improvements.
  • Although the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program is made up of a relatively complex interplay of five instructional strategies with five support strategies, the implementation in Brazil demonstrated that each one of those strategies had a relevant role to play.
  • Although Coca-Cola Brazil was the driving force behind the program implementation, local ownership also was important to its success.
  • At the local level, perhaps the most important indicator of program success was school leadership.
  • One dramatic demonstration of the need of this type of program was how the tutors’ relationship with the teacher coordinator flourished. It was clear that these students needed an adult in the school setting that would listen to them, support their aspirations, and orient them when dealing with daily issues.
  • Parent engagement is essential for student success. The Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program provided the context for this to happen.
  • Can schools by themselves implement something similar to the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program? Yes, but they would first need to assimilate the concept of valuing youth and keep renewing it, as it is easy to slip back to the prevalent deficit thinking.
  • Finally, another requirement for us to answer “yes” to the question posed in the previous paragraph is that the school would need to be willing to create new structures that cut across the established isolated classroom structure to enrich the pedagogical experience of the students.

In summary, the program had a remarkable impact improving the educational environment in Brazil as it helped retain more youth in the school system and rekindled hope for a better society. Whether the schools will continue to have success in this area, as they attempt to implement some aspects of the program on their own, depends on their willingness to embrace the concept of valuing youth, expand the school into the community with significant partnerships, and re-invent internal structures that emphasize collaborations among teachers and other school personnel with the goal of helping the students in their psychological, intellectual and educational growth.


For more information on the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program contact IDRA at 210-444-1710 or visit http://www.idra.org/coca-cola-valued-youth-program/

Felix Montes, Ph.D., is an education associate in IDRA Support Services. Comments and questions may be directed to him via e-mail at feedback@idra.org.

[©2012, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the October 2012 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]