• IDRA Newsletter • October 2015 •

Editor’s Note: IDRA sponsored a national essay competition among participants in the IDRA Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program, a nationally-recognized cross-age tutoring program of IDRA. Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program tutors wrote about how the program helps them do better in school and how they help their tutees to do better. Six students received prizes. Below is one of the winning essays. Others are available online.

Middle School First Place

Agustina García
7th grade, Dr. Javier Saenz Middle School, La Joya, Texas

The Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program is a great experience that every student should participate in during their middle school years. For those individuals who think there is no hope for their future, this is the program for you. I had no desire to receive an education, and because of my bad behavior, my teachers and parents did not think I would succeed in life. This all changed when I was chosen to participate in the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program. Because of what I have learned through this program, I have learned to develop positive characteristics that will help me achieve greatness in my life. Let me explain my reasons as to how this program changed me from the person I once was.

The Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program made me a better student and individual. I used to get into so much trouble at school, mainly because I was hanging out with the wrong people. I was easily influenced to do things that I know I should not have been doing. I described myself as being rude and disrespectful to not only teachers, but also to my parents. I felt like I would not amount to anything because everything I always did was a failure. My parents would try to advise me on how to follow the right path in life and that education was the answer to my success. But everything they told me went into one ear and out the other.

As I started my seventh grade year, I thought everything was going to continue exactly as the previous year. I would be in more trouble, and my grades would be low. As I approached registration day, I noticed that my counselor gave me a schedule that included a class called Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program. I had heard some things about this class, but I did not really know what it was all about. I asked my counselor what this class was, but she just informed me to wait until I attended and my teacher would tell me all about it.

Upon entering class for the first day, I noticed I was surrounded by some friends I knew, the majority of them being smart students. I asked myself, “What in the world am I doing here?” When class started, Mr. Ramírez, our teacher, began to explain the purpose of the program and added by informing us that we would be getting a monthly check for our work with tutoring. It all seemed too good to be true. I was shocked and could not believe that my counselor believed that I could be a part of this awesome program. As the class went on, I began to feel a sense of belonging, and maybe this was something good for me that would change my attitude and view on school. I was right!!

Over the next several months, my views on education and life changed. I was starting to apply myself more in my schoolwork, and I even began to join organizations, such as student council and UIL, to try to learn and be a role model for others in my school and community.

Every day when we go to Clinton Elementary to tutor my tutees, I get excited to know that I am making a difference in their lives. I feel needed when I walk into my class, and my tutees begin to jump up and down yelling my name, “Ms. García!” There are times when we don’t go tutor because there are scheduling conflicts at my school. During these times, I feel like my tutees miss me, and I feel like I am letting them down by not being there for them to support their learning. The relationship I have built with these kids will always remain in my heart.

There were some other changes I noticed with myself. My grades began to go up, and before I knew it, I was getting the honor roll. I always asked myself how I was supposed to tutor kids when I myself was failing my own classes. This inspired me to get on the ball and begin to study hard. My confidence went up, I had more motivation, and the cool part was that my teachers and parents began to notice this positive change also.

The Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program has changed the type of individual I once was. I no longer want to be referred to as the student who is a troublemaker and doesn’t seem to care about her education. I want to be looked at as a role model, responsible student, and community leader. I cannot let my friends tell me what I can and cannot do just to try to fit in with them. I get very excited when we take college tours as part of our field trips because I am now looking at a teaching career in my future. I would have never thought of becoming an educator and making a difference in the lives of others if it wasn’t for the
Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program. Because of this program, my life has meaning and prospective future.

The IDRA Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program is an internationally-recognized cross-age tutoring program. Since its inception in 1984, the program has kept more than 33,000 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. The lives of more than 646,000 children, families and educators have been positively impacted by the program. Contact IDRA for more information or visit http://www.idra.org/coca-cola-valued-youth-program/.

Comments and questions may be directed to IDRA at feedback@idra.org.

[©2015, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the October 2015 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.]