• by Linda Cantú, Ph.D. • IDRA Newsletter • May 2011 •

Dr. Linda CantuIDRA’s Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program is an internationally-recognized, cross-age tutoring program. It works by identifying middle school and high school students who are in at-risk situations and enlists them as tutors of elementary school youngsters who are also struggling in school. Given this role of personal and academic responsibility, the Valued Youth tutors learn self-discipline and develop self-esteem, and schools shift to the philosophy and practices of valuing students considered at-risk.

Results show that tutors stay in school, have increased academic performance, improved school attendance and advanced to higher education and other careers. During the time students participate in the program, 98 percent continue into the next grade.

Since the inception of the program in 1984, more than 32,078 tutors have benefited. This impact has been achieved, in large part, by preserving the program’s integrity – keeping true to the program’s vision.

The program also provides middle and high school students an opportunity to look at different careers and college opportunities. Participating schools provide college tours and college information to all tutors. Through these local college tours and events, like tutor leadership days, schools introduce a direct, tangible link between high school graduation and post-secondary options, demonstrating in words and actions that graduation and college planning is part of the vision for every student (Posner, 2006).

There are many Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program students who may not initially have thought they would go to college. As they visited college campuses, walked the halls and were encouraged to explore college as an option, many have decided they could go on to college and have done so. Additionally, many of our Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program tutors have moved forward with their careers and their interest in going to college. These are a few stories of where they are now.

Athena Brown

Athena participated in the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program as a senior at Career Center/Virtual High School in the Ector County school district. She graduated in 2008 and now attends Odessa Community College. Her goal is to transfer to the University of Texas Permian Basin to complete a degree in elementary education.

Athena’s school attendance and attitude improved as a result her participation in the program, “It was a turning point in my life.” She didn’t want to disappoint her tutees because they were counting on her: “The tutees were always so disappointed when I was absent and were really happy to see me when I was there.” As a result of tutoring, Athena decided she would become an elementary teacher.

Anaés Alvarez

Anaés completed her senior year and graduated in 2009 from Career Center/Virtual High School. During her senior year, she became a tutor in the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program and tutored second graders. She is fluent in both English and Spanish, which was helpful in her tutoring job because her tutees spoke Spanish and were learning English.

Anaés believes the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program helped her continue and complete her high school education because of all the benefits of being in the program. She earned academic credit, received monetary compensation, and experienced being a tutor. Currently, Anahi is working and plans to attend college this upcoming year. In high school, she earned 16 college credits. She plans on becoming a Spanish teacher.

Anaés adds about the program: “It’s more than a class. It’s a responsibility. You learn responsibility.”

Ritter Brown

In 2010, Ritter also graduated from Career Center/Virtual High School. He had been a tutor in the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program working with second graders. Ritter believes the program gave him confidence. He believes he was selected to tutor these specific tutees because they needed extra help. His tutees were very active and energetic. “I tried helping them as best as I could, and because of that, I noticed improvements in them.”

For Ritter, the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program made him a better student due to the support he received from everyone in the program: “I used to make F’s and then moved up to making A’s and B’s.”

Through the program, he realized he wanted to be a teacher because of how good he became at explaining academic material to others. He saw that, all along, he understood school subjects well but was too timid to go in depth with the material. He summarized, “The Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program had a huge impact on my life because it helped me finish school and move on to college.”

Andre Merritt

Andre was a tutor in the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program at Fuller Performance Learning Center in Fayetteville, North Carolina. He graduated in May 2010. Currently, Andre is in his freshman year at Fayetteville Technical Community College. He tutored fourth graders in reading comprehension and reading skills.

Andre wants to pursue a career in music performance and production. He also plans to do some kind of tutoring while he is in college.

Andre’s family is proud that, even though he had many adversities in life, he graduated from high school. Andre feels he always struggled at applying himself in school, but because he became a tutor in the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program, he had to be the best student possible in order for the children to look up to him as a role model.

He believes the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program was “great” because of the entire concept of giving back to the community: “Tutoring gave me a sense of purpose in knowing I am actually helping someone.”

Stephanie Gutierrez

Stephanie graduated in 2008 from Career Center/Virtual High School. During her senior year, she became a tutor in the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program and worked with third and fourth graders from the Newcomers Academy, which serves immigrant students. Stephanie is bilingual, proficient in English and Spanish. She helped her tutees learn English along with reading and writing.

For Stephanie, the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program helped her grow: “It helped me discipline myself. It helped me to not only think about myself and not only care about what I did but how it was something that I would do for somebody else. I knew that I was going to be a help for those tutees.”

Stephanie stated: “It helped me want to succeed more in life. And it helped me see that, if I was that example to my tutees, I would graduate that year and I would go on to college or whatever else we have to do in life. I think that’s something that pushed me a little.”

Currently, Stephanie is working and has completed one year of college. She plans to become a mathematics teacher. Stephanie says that her family wants her to finish college: “They support me 100 percent. They want me to succeed because I am the first one in my family to graduate, and they want me to keep going. I have a little sister, so I have to be her role model too.”


Posner, L. “Coca-Cola Valued Youth College Tours – On the Road to College Success,” IDRA Newsletter (San Antonio, Texas: Intercultural Development Research Association, September 2006).

Linda Cantú, Ph.D., is a senior education associate in IDRA Field Services. Comments and questions may be directed to her via e-mail at feedback@idra.org.

[©2011, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the May 2011 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.]