• by Josie Danini Supik, M.A. • IDRA Newsletter • October 1999

Josie Cortez Josie Danini Supik, M.A.This past school year began a new initiative of the IDRA Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program. In July 1998, The
Coca-Cola Foundation awarded the Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA) a new grant to take the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program into the next millennium.

Beginning in 1984, with support from Coca-Cola USA to IDRA, the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program has given thousands of Valued Youth a chance to be special, to contribute and to achieve.

In 1990, The Coca-Cola Foundation awarded a five-year grant to IDRA to take the program to 10 elementary and secondary schools around the country. IDRA exceeded its commitment by opening the program in 70 schools in 18 cities.

In 1995, The Coca-Cola Foundation provided support for IDRA to expand the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program into 10 new secondary and elementary schools over three years. Again, IDRA exceeded its commitment: the program was in 38 new schools in the United States, Puerto Rico and Great Britain. In June of 1998, the end of the three-year initiative, the program was in an unprecedented 128 schools, reaching more than 4,000 tutors and tutees that school year alone.

During this last initiative, The Coca-Cola Foundation and IDRA achieved the following:

  • A school in Washington, D.C., became our 100th program site.
  • 26 new school sites were begun in Great Britain.
  • Four new school sites were begun in Puerto Rico.
  • 10 new school sites were begun in Houston.
  • 10.7 million people learned about the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program through national and international media coverage, including NBC, USA Today, BBC, and Los Angeles Times.
  • Presentations were made at events of national significance, including the President’s Summit for America’s Future held in April 1997 with more than 3,000 participants.
  • Two new school sites in Atlanta and five new school sites in Chicago were begun in 1997-98.
  • Over 98 percent of our Valued Youth tutors stayed in school.

Since 1984, more than 74,500 students, parents, teachers and administrators have been impacted by the program. This impact has been achieved, in large part, by preserving the program’s integrity, keeping true to the program’s vision: “The Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program is in the vanguard of education by creating a structure for the valuing of students and families and is a powerful instrument for amplifying their voices, their dignity and their worth.” The program’s creed is: All students are valuable, none is expendable.

In the 1998-99 school year, the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program was in 171 secondary and elementary schools in 24 school districts and 20 cities in the United States, Puerto Rico and Great Britain. More than 1,000 tutors and 3,000 tutees benefitted from the program this year alone. This includes 66 elementary and secondary schools in Great Britain (Birmingham, Greenwich and Kent); four schools in San Juan, Puerto Rico; three schools in Washington, DC; two schools in Atlanta; and five schools in Chicago.

Rigorous Evaluation

The evaluation and monitoring activities of the
Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program sites continue to be as rigorous and comprehensive as ever. Each year, the evaluation design has been reviewed by staff with feedback from the sites. Modifications are made to increase the efficiency, effectiveness, and overall quality of the evaluation.

In addition to the pre- and post-test surveys, IDRA has also committed its own resources to effectively evaluate this program, including in-depth interviews and regular monitoring and on-site observations. The evaluation design of this program is a model for dropout prevention and service-learning programs across the country.

1998-99 Program Findings

Student Tutor Profiles: Demographics

During the last school year, slightly more than half of the tutors were male. Tutors ranged from sixth to 12th grade. Most of the tutors (88.4 percent) were Hispanic; 10.7 percent were African American. Almost all of the tutors (96.1 percent) were eligible for the free or reduced price lunch program (a poverty indicator).

One out of three tutors were previously retained once in grade; six tutors had been retained more than three times. The tutors’ average age was 15. One out of two tutors had a mother or father who was born in Mexico.

One out of three tutors had changed schools previously. Of those, two out of three had changed schools once or twice. However, some tutors had changed schools seven, eight, nine, even 10 times.

Student Tutor Profiles: Peers

Two out of three tutors expanded their circle of friendships by the end of the school year; their fellow tutors had become new friends. At the beginning of the school year, two out of five tutors had friends who had dropped out of school, and one out of five had a brother or sister who had dropped out. However, less than one out of 10 tutors say they had ever considered dropping out of school. At the end of the school year, four out of five tutors felt they had a place in their school, that they “belonged.”

Teacher Coordinators’ Perceptions of Tutors

The teacher coordinators were asked to evaluate the tutors at the beginning and end of the school year. They evaluated the tutors in 15 areas, from self-concept to academic achievement. Their pre- and posttest ratings of tutors increased significantly in all areas: self-concept; disciplinary record; academic achievement; attendance; interest in class and school; future goals; ability to socialize with schoolmates; ability to socialize into their school environment; relationship with their parents, teachers, administrators and counselors; their desire to graduate; and hygiene and dress.

Elementary School Teachers’ Perceptions of Tutees

Elementary school teachers were also surveyed at the beginning and end of the school year for their perceptions of the tutees. They were asked to evaluate the students who were tutored in nine areas ranging from interest in class to academic achievement. This is the primary means used to evaluate whether or not the tutors had an impact on the children that they tutored throughout the year.

Other methods such as grades and achievement test scores for the older tutees have been used. But, it is difficult to assess pre- and posttest changes in tutees unless the same students were tutored throughout the year. Given that this is usually not the case, any such assessment is deemed inappropriate and unreliable.

According to the elementary school teachers’ survey, all of the survey areas for the tutees (self-concept, disciplinary record, academic achievement, attendance, interest in class and school, ability to socialize with schoolmates and into their school environment, and their hygiene and dress) increased significantly after the tutoring.

Parents’ Perceptions of Tutors

At the end of the school year, tutors’ parents were surveyed about their impressions of the tutoring experience on their children. The survey was completed by 350 parents (33 percent). The survey is provided in both Spanish and English; most of the interviews were conducted in person.

Most (73.0 percent) of the parents reported a positive change in their child’s attitude and behavior regarding school. They attributed the changes to their involvement in the
Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program – changes that included greater responsibility and maturity, greater interest in school, and higher self-esteem. They also noted better grades and self-discipline. Parents reported a positive change in the home with their children helping them more than usual, specifically doing household chores, working on homework, and increasing communication with them around personal problems and school.

Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program Tutors

IDRA conducts in-depth interviews of a sample of tutors at the end of the year. Below are examples of two case studies. (The student’s names have been changed for privacy.)

Brenda’s Story

Brenda is an outgoing student who likes to laugh. As a senior at Options in Education High School in McAllen, Texas, 18-year-old Brenda has just finished her second year as an IDRA
Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program tutor. Because Brenda’s mother was only able to complete up to the fifth grade, she encourages Brenda and her two younger brothers to graduate.

Brenda explains that she did not always care about school, “For a long time, the only point to going to school was to get it over with.” Brenda believes she has changed since becoming a Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program tutor. School is more important to her, she feels that it now has a purpose and is “more uplifting.” Because Brenda has helped other children, she sees her own brothers as more children she can help.

Brenda finds that she is motivated to do well in other areas of her life: “Being a tutor has gotten me to join other clubs too. I’m in the student government and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and I have a mentor.” By joining clubs, she has gained more confidence.

For one hour a day, four days a week, Brenda has been tutoring day care students and first-grade students. She has been teaching them colors, numbers and speaking English: “When I first came to the classroom, the kids didn’t understand when I greeted them in English. Now, they speak to me in English all of the time. I know that I had something to do with it.”

Brenda will always remember her tutees: “When I walked in the room, they would have these big smiles, and they would all sit up a little straighter in their chairs because I was there.”

The teacher coordinator for the school’s Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program also made a big impact on Brenda. The teacher was always encouraging her to apply to college and fill out financial aid forms.

When asked what she will remember most about being a tutor, Brenda said: “I’ll remember all of the commitment and effort we put into it I know that the kids I tutored will go on with their education. Those kids aren’t staying behind.”

Brenda’s mother is also involved in the tutees’ lives: “My mom gets excited when the kids make a good grade on a test. She won’t let me forget anything about my kids, she even gets them cards for the holidays!”

The Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program has also made a positive difference in the financial situation of Brenda’s family. She has been able to help her mother pay the bills and has been able to buy some of her own clothes.

Brenda hopes that because she was always there for her tutees, they will know that if they ask for help, someone will always be there. Brenda knows now what her teachers feel like. She understands the teachers’ point of view.

Brenda thinks high school would have been boring without the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program. Brenda does not know if she would have graduated from high school without the program: “Being a tutor encouraged me to get up and go to school everyday.” She adds: “I really love this program. I think everyone in this school and the world should have it!”

Rich’s Story

Rich is an outgoing student with ambitious goals for his future. As a ninth-grade student at Madison High School in Houston, Rich has just completed his first year as a Coca-Cola Valued Youth tutor. Rich’s family is very supportive of his participation in the program and encourages his dream of getting a college education. Rich plans to attend college at either Notre Dame or Georgia Tech where he would like to study art. Rich hopes that his passion for drawing will help him to become a professional cartoonist.

For one hour a day, four days a week, Rich has been tutoring fourth- and fifth- grade students. Rich helps the tutees with a variety of subjects including reading, spelling and math. Rich says that he spends the majority of his time helping his students with their math and, as a result, has sharpened his own math skills as well. Rich feels that his tutees are experiencing the same problems he did as a young student, and wants to show them that through education, their situations will improve. He wants to set a good example for his tutees, “I see the tutees with the same problems I used to have and how it’s so important for them to get help so they can continue their education and get better.”

Rich explains that though his job as a tutor can be difficult at times, his fifth-grade students make him happy. He says that these tutees have more difficulty paying attention, so he must be versatile in dealing with them. He has been forced to develop new ways to earn the interest of his tutees and is proud to report that his new style of teaching is producing great results. He feels that it is necessary to develop a delicate balance of fun and discipline in order to help the student want to learn.

Rich gets support from his friends and family. He says that his parents and grandmother are very proud of his involvement in the program and have noticed many differences in his attitude at home. Rich feels that he now gives his elders more respect. Thanks to his work as a tutor, Rich says that he now understands how difficult it is to be a caregiver for young children and prides himself in his newly found sense of patience.

Rich believes that his success as a tutor can be attributed to his thorough preparation. He says that he prepares himself both mentally and physically for his daily meetings with his tutees. He also feels that his love for his new profession gives him a personal strength that can be seen while he works with his students, “Only an emergency will keep me from seeing my tutees every day.”

Rich plans to use the money he earns from his work as a tutor to open a savings account. He also says that he will use a portion of his wages to purchase any personal affects that he may need in order to relieve his grandmother, whom he lives with, of a financial burden, “I try to give my paycheck to my grandmother to pay bills when she needs it.” He says it makes him feel good to know that he is in a position to help his family.

Rich says he will hold a special place in his heart for his teacher coordinator because no matter what the circumstances, she always helped them get into the spirit of their job. Rich says that he enjoyed helping his tutees improve their education, and has felt a great deal of personal satisfaction because of it.

Although Rich has always planned on completing high school, he says that the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program has helped him to make his education a priority, “I feel that school is a lot more important now.”

If Rich was to offer advice to future tutors, he would tell them to always “keep their cool.” He says that his short temper is now a thing of the past and feels he is an example of how much a person can change given the right circumstances. He also says that tutors must always think about what they say in advance because they are setting a very important example for these young students, “The tutees see you as a friend, and a role model, so it’s important that the tutors behave.”

Looking Forward

The Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program will continue to benefit thousands of students into this new millennium, reaching a record 210 schools across the globe during this next school year.

Quick Facts about the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program

Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program tutors improved their academic achievement test scores significantly in reading and mathematics after participating in the program. Their self-concept also improved in all areas: behavior, intellectual and school status, physical appearance, anxiety, popularity, and happiness and satisfaction.

Of 1,066 Valued Youth tutors in 1998-99, only 10 dropped out of school, resulting in a dropout rate of 0.9 percent.

Over half of the tutors spoke Spanish as their first language, and most spoke a language other than English at home.

“The best thing about tutoring is being able to give someone something. I actually taught someone else something, and it felt good.”

“ Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program tutor in Washington, DC

Tutors took field trips to local universities, museums, banks and hospitals.

Tutors interacted with guest speakers including policy-makers, school administrators, hospital staff, judges and law enforcement personnel.

The Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program began in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo, Brazil, this spring. “The great insight of this project is that it systematizes a way of working with children considered failures and turns them around in very short time,” comments a teacher at Ruy Barbosa Elementary School in Rio de Janeiro.

– Intercultural Development Research Association, 1998-99 Stewardship Report

Overview of the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program

In 1984, the Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA) designed, developed and implemented the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program with funding from Coca-Cola USA. It has grown from 10 schools in San Antonio to more than 200 schools in the continental United States, Puerto Rico, England and Brazil.

The Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program goals include

  • reducing dropout rates;
  • 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.

Seven important tenets express the philosophy of the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program.

  1. All students can learn.
  2. The school values all student.
  3. All students can actively contribute to their own education and to the education of others.
  4. All students, parents and teachers have the right to participate fully in creating and maintaining excellent schools.
  5. Excellence in schools contributes to individual and collective economic growth, stability and advancement.
  6. Commitment to educational excellence is created by including students, parents and teachers in setting goals, making decisions, monitoring progress and evaluating outcomes.
  7. Students, parents and teachers must be provided extensive, consistent support in ways that allow students to learn, teachers to teach, and parents to be involved.
Instructional strategies:

  • classes for student tutors
  • tutoring sessions
  • field trips
  • role modeling
  • student recognition
Support strategies:

  • curriculum
  • coordination
  • staff enrichment
  • parent involvement
  • program evaluation
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 contact IDRA at 210-444-1710 or feedback@idra.org.


Josie Danini Supik, M.A., coordinates IDRA’s materials development. Comments and questions may be directed to her via e-mail at feedback@idra.org.

[©1999, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the October 1999 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.]