by Linda Cantu, MA • IDRA Newsletter • May 2001

Dr. Linda CantuThe Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program is an internationally recognized cross-age tutoring program developed by the Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA) in 1984. In the program, secondary school students who are considered to be at-risk of dropping out of school are placed as tutors of elementary school students, enabling the older students to make a difference in the younger students’ lives. With a growing sense of responsibility, pride and support, the tutors stay in school and do better.

Currently the program has more than 241 schools participating in Brazil, England and seven U.S. states – Arizona, California, Illinois, New Mexico, New York, Texas and Washington, D.C. There are more than 5,200 students, (1,300 secondary school students and 3,900 elementary school students), participating in the program.

The Digital Divide

IDRA is working through the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program to overcome the digital divide by encouraging the use of technology as a way for students to communicate with each other, prepare presentations that highlight the work they, as tutors, do and explain what the program is about.

The term digital divide refers to the gap between those groups in the United States who have access to technology and those who do not. A report released by the National Telecommunications Information Administration, Falling Through the Net: Defining the Digital Divide, found that if you are poor, older, less-educated, African American, Hispanic or Native American and live in a rural area you are less likely to have access to technology (Green, 2000).

Many of the students who participate in the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program are African American, Hispanic and Native American, come from low socio-economic communities and come from rural communities.

The students in the program often do not have good access to the technology that exists in their schools. Often the hardware exists, but the expertise to use it is limited or non-existent.

PowerPoint Presentations

Tutors in the program and the teacher coordinators who work with them are learning to use and are becoming experts in computer software, such as Microsoft Word and PowerPoint. They are using digital cameras and inserting digital photographs into their presentations; they are using projection systems, e-mail, the Internet and video conference equipment as communication tools.

At the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program International Teacher Coordinators Meeting held in San Antonio in February 2001, teacher coordinators gave PowerPoint presentations to highlight their programs. These presentations were joint creations of the teacher coordinators and tutors.

One teacher coordinator said that his students prepared the entire presentation including the use of digital photographs they had taken of themselves tutoring, on field trips and with guest speakers. Just before he left, the students showed him how to use the equipment and asked him if he was sure he would be able to work the equipment on his own. The tutors have become the teachers and the teachers have become the students.

The students are utilizing sophisticated equipment that many teachers call on the school’s technology experts to handle. Another teacher said his students have become so adept at using the equipment, they help around the school with other teachers who need technology support.

These are students who generally are considered at-risk of leaving school and low-academic achievers. The Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program supports and encourages teacher coordinators and their students to utilize technology. These examples show that, given the opportunity and teachers who believe in them, students can excel.

Video Conferences

IDRA has facilitated video conferences between Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program students for the past three years. During April and May 2001, IDRA will hold seven video conferences among 14 different schools from eight different school districts in eight cities. The districts are in three states, Texas (Brownsville, Deer Park, La Joya, Mission and San Antonio), California (San José and Los Angeles), and New Mexico (Cobre). More than 300 students will participate in these video conferences.

The purpose of the video conferences is to give tutors from different cities an opportunity to meet each other and see that they are part of an expansive group of tutors who provide support, through tutoring, to younger students. The use of technology – video conferencing – has been one vehicle used to accomplish this.

There are two facets to this technological endeavor: (1) tutors communicate via e-mail as “keypals” with other tutors before and after the video conference, and (2) the video conference, where tutors meet face-to-face in a two-way audio and video communication.

The video conference experience incorporates many learning opportunities. The students learn video conference etiquette. It allows for tutors to develop oral language skills, writing skills and editing skills. It teaches them how to present orally in front of a camera – how to project their voice, enunciate, look into the camera, elaborate and expand on their oral presentations.

Each of these tasks, together with their responsibilities as tutors, helps them improve academically and personally and helps them stay in school.

Schools Support Tutors with Technology

Because the tutors have demonstrated their interest, capability and willingness to learn about technology, schools are supporting the tutors in the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program by providing them with computer workstations.

Tutors from Brownsville Independent School District (ISD), La Joya ISD and South San Antonio ISD have provided each teacher coordinator with a laptop computer, portable printer, digital camera and access to a projection box for the program.

This show of support to the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program tutors has demonstrated to both the teachers and the tutors that the students are valued and that someone believes they are capable. It has helped them become better tutors and better students.


Cantu, L. and L. López-De La Garza. “Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program Students Meet Peers Via Video Conference,” IDRA Newsletter (San Antonio, Texas: Intercultural Development Research Association, August 1998).

Green, L.C. “Bridging the Digital Divide in Our Schools – Achieving Technology Equity for All Students,” IDRA Newsletter (San Antonio, Texas: Intercultural Development Research Association, May 2000).

López del Bosque, R. “Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program: The Value of Video Conferencing,” IDRA Newsletter (San Antonio, Texas: Intercultural Development Research Association, April 1999).

Linda Cantu, MA, is a education associate in the IDRA Division of Professional Development. Comments and questions may be directed to her via e-mail at

[©2001, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the May 2001 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.]