In 1984, IDRA designed and implemented the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program, a dropout prevention program, in which secondary school students who are considered at risk of dropping out of school are placed as tutors of elementary school students. The program enables the older students to make a difference in the younger students’ lives and supports them with positive recognition and instruction. With a growing sense of responsibility and pride, the tutors stay and do better in school.
The primary goal of the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program is to reduce the annual dropout rate among tutors in the participating secondary schools. When implemented as designed, additional benefits derived from the program include: enhancing students’ basic academic skills; strengthening students’ perceptions of self and school; reducing student disciplinary action referrals and absenteeism; and strengthening school-home-community partnerships to increase the level of support available to students considered at risk of dropping out of school.
The key to the program’s success is valuing students who are considered at risk of dropping out of school and sustaining their efforts with effective, coordinated strategies. The program’s philosophy is centered on the statement, “All students are valuable; none is expendable.”
Since the inception of the program in 1984, more than 456,000 students, parents, teachers and administrators have been impacted by the program. More than 25,900 tutors have benefited from the program.
Each of the valued youth tutors succeed in ways that are, in fact, immeasurable: bringing pride to their families when before the program their experience with the school had been one of concern and worry; bringing their insights, compassion and intelligence to their tutees who now had someone to listen to them, someone who understood them better than anyone else; and bringing higher expectations to their teachers who once saw them as troublemakers or lost causes and now saw them as invaluable young people.
Some of these successes are captured in the tutors’ monthly journals and case study interviews. These data, in the tutors’ own voices, speak to the power of a program that mobilizes school staff and brings out the best, the most valued essence of students, families and educators.
Here are some tutors’ stories as documented through end-of-year events. Tutor’s names have been changed to ensure confidentiality.
“[It] Makes me feel good knowing that I am doing something positive.”
Hi everyone. Well, I want to start off by saying this program has made a big impact on my life. It has shown me that just by helping someone, even if it is just for a little while, it does make a difference in their life. Also being able to call myself a great role model means a lot to me. Hearing them tell me: “You’re such a good tutor,” and “I’m glad you’re helping me,” and “I want to be like you when I grow up” makes me feel good knowing that I am doing something positive. It has also made me more responsible. I hate to miss school because I look forward to seeing my tutees and working with them every day. The main thing it has shown me is that life isn’t always about you. You can learn a lot from other people. I’m glad that I have grown closer to my classmates.
– middle school tutor
“I am so proud of myself because [my tutees] are improving a lot.”
How the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program has changed me. Well I think the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program has changed me a lot. It changed me in the beginning of the year because I was kind of all shy and, I guess, nervous. Now that we go to tutor every day, I am not nervous because I guess I got used to the class, the teacher and my three kids. In the beginning, I got so frustrated with the kids because they are just “little kiddos.” But then, I finally realized that you have to have more patience with them, and they learn better and faster. So, I have been doing that [being patient] ever since, and I am so proud of myself because they are improving a lot, not only because I am patient but because I am teaching them.
If I ask them to read a book loud and clear, they do it. I noticed that, in the beginning, they really wouldn’t pay close attention to the book, but now they do. I taught them not to fight with one another and to always listen to the teacher.
Well, my kids have been doing great. Like Anna, she really listens now. She doesn’t get sidetracked like she used to. She concentrates better and has improved a lot.
Juan, I told him how to share things and to take turns with everyone, and now he does. I’m so proud of him.
And good old Abel, before, he didn’t know how to read, just a little bit, and now he can read like all of the other students. When I ask someone if they want to read, he is the first one to raise his hand. So Anna and Juan get mad. I always tell them to take turns, so yeah, it has really made a huge difference and all three have improved, even I have. I’m so proud of all of them!
– middle school tutor
“My parents told me to set a great example for these tutees because they look up to me.”
My experience as a tutor was great for me because I am able to talk to people more and I am not as shy as before. This program was great for me. My parents told me to set a great example for these tutees because they look up to me. My experience has been great, and the field trip to the Coca-Cola Bottler was also great because I got to meet other students from different districts and schools. My experience with the tutees was great because I got to meet each one of them. And when I finally got my tutees, I didn’t know what to do. I finally got used to it and got the tutees to improve their reading, and they are reading very well. I like that they are getting better and better every time I visit them.
It has been great for me because, before, when I came to this class, every subject was hard for me, but after I came to this class I’ve been getting better and better. I speak up, and the teachers help me. This has been a great experience for me.
– middle school tutor
“Helping the kids learn to read was the best thing that could happen to me.”
What the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program means to me. At first, I thought it was going to be easy and I thought I was going to get paid for doing nothing. Once I started, it was not easy working with the kids and helping them because they really did need my help. I could not blow them off, and I didn’t. This was my job, and I was going to do it the right way, the way my teacher coordinator taught me to do it.
Helping the kids learn to read was the best thing that could happen to me. I felt warm in my heart when they would go home and tell their parents that I helped them with their work or that they learned a new word. This program means a lot to me because I’m making a difference in the tutee’s school life. The other reason the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program means so much to me is because I really didn’t have a lot of good grades. I had mostly Cs, and now thanks to my teacher coordinator, I now have been on the honor roll and I am in the NJHS. I could never dream that I would be in the NJHS. My parents are really proud of me. They are really glad that I’m not doing anything stupid. I am helping little kids with their work, and they give me more respect. This is what the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program means to me.
– middle school tutor
Established by IDRA in 1984, the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program is a cross-age tutoring dropout prevention program. Since its inception in San Antonio in 1984, this internationally-recognized program has kept more than 25,900 students in school, young people who were previously at risk of dropping out. According to the Valued Youth creed, all students are valuable, none is expendable. This philosophy is helping schools keep 98 percent of Valued Youth students in school, keeping these young people in the classroom and learning. For more than 22 years, IDRA and The Coca-Cola Foundation have worked together in a unique partnership that is making a visible difference in the lives of more than 456,000 children, families and educators.
In the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program, secondary students who are considered at risk of dropping out of school are placed as tutors of elementary students, enabling the older students to make a difference in the younger students’ lives. With a growing sense of responsibility and pride, the tutors stay and do better in school. The program supports them with positive recognition and instruction. The key to the program’s success is in valuing students who are considered at risk of dropping out of school and sustaining their efforts with effective, coordinated strategies.
For more information, visit www.idra.org or contact IDRA.
Photo credit: Michael Vasquez Photography
Roy L. Johnson, M.S., is director of IDRA Support Services. Linda Cantú, Ph.D., is an education associate in IDRA Field Services.Comments and questions may be directed to them via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[©2007, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the October 2007 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.]