• IDRA Newsletter • October 2004 •
As the struggle to keep many young people in school continues to face educators, parents and communities around the country, one successful initiative, the IDRA CocaCola Valued Youth Program, celebrates its 20th anniversary this month as a leader in dropout prevention. Educators from throughout San Antonio and South Texas joined those who have traveled from programs in four states for a two-day National Teacher Coordinator Institute sponsored by the Intercultural Development Research Association.
The Harvard Civil Right Project reports that, nationally, only 68 percent of students graduate on time with a diploma. According to the latest data from IDRA, the high school attrition rate in Bexar County last year was 36 percent – meaning 8,570 high school students did not receive a diploma. Among Hispanic students, that rate was 43 percent, or 6,642 students. Attrition rates measure the drop in enrollment of the class of 2004 from the time they entered as freshmen to when they were to become seniors. (See story by Roy L. Johnson.)
“The reason we as a nation have failed to reduce dropout rates is that we have been blaming the students – claiming that their soul, their mind, their heart or their community environment is unhealthy – rather than tending to what grown-ups and schools should be doing to keep children in school,” said María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, Ph.D., IDRA executive director.
The CocaCola Valued Youth Program is making a difference. Funded by a grant from The CocaCola Foundation, IDRA created this internationally-recognized dropout prevention program with an unusual twist. The program works by identifying junior high and high school students in at-risk situations and enlisting them as tutors for elementary school students who are also struggling in school. Given this role of personal and academic responsibility, the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program tutors gain self-discipline, increase their self-esteem and succeed academically. The program design is based on IDRA research of dropout data and school holding power.
“The Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program is successful, because it demonstrates to students the value of their own education and of the contributions they can make in the lives of others. The students feel needed and important. They know others rely on them as role models. And the young students really do see our tutors as heroes!” said Dr. Robledo Montecel.
According to the Valued Youth creed “all students are valuable, none is expendable.” This philosophy is helping schools across the United States and Brazil lower the drop out rate. In areas where the program operates, the drop out rates among tutors are averaging 2 percent, keeping 98 percent of young people in the classroom and learning. The program currently spans five U.S. states and 14 cities in Brazil, and throughout the 20 years has positively impacted the lives of more than 220,000 children, families and educators, keeping more than 12,000 “at-risk” students in school.
“I’m the youngest of four kids, and I will be the first to graduate from high school. I would not be graduating if I wasn’t a tutor,” according to one Valued Youth tutor in San Antonio.
“The Coca-Cola Company believes in the value of education and that is why we focus our support around education and youth development. This year we celebrate with IDRA, 20 years of student success and achievement. We are proud of the Valued Youth tutors for making the decision to continue their education,” said Ingrid Saunders Jones, chairperson, for The Coca-Cola Foundation.
In San Antonio, the program started in four independent school districts (ISD) and is currently active in the South San Antonio ISD, which is also the only district to have maintained the program every year since its inception.
“I’ve seen firsthand the difference this program can make in the lives of young people. The kids I work with have improved as students and as people because of this program. That’s been amazing to watch, especially since no one thought they would even stay in school,” said one CocaCola Valued Youth Program teacher coordinator in San Antonio.
The CocaCola Valued Youth Program National Teacher Coordinator Institute is a two-day training institute for current and prospective teacher coordinators hosted by IDRA and held each fall. This year, the institute reviewed the impact of the
Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program on tutors, tutees, parents, families and campuses, as well as sharing challenges, learnings, and highlights and looking to future innovations that will positively shape the program and its outcomes.
Heard at the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program 20th Anniversary Celebration
“I was just an average student, but when I was in front of my tutees, I felt above average…My job now is to protect and serve, but now that I think about it, that’s something I learned 10 years ago at Faulk Middle School as a tutor.”
– Mr. Pablo López, former Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program tutor,
“The Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program gives an opportunity for young people to see themselves and for others to see them as the valuable and important young people that they are… not limited by adult or school perceptions about them.”
– María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, Ph.D.,
“Even though the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program has been localized to Brazil so that it presents the local reality, the objectives and goals of the program are exactly the same. It is a good and vitally important program that has helped over 10,000 children in Brazil.”
– Mr. Marco Simões, Executive Director, Coca-Cola Institute,
“What this program does is help everyone in the business of education. Generations are saved from dropping out with this program.”
– Dr. Nabor Cortez, Superintendent,
“The Coca-Cola Company believes in the value of education and that is why we focus our support around education and youth development. This year we celebrate with IDRA, 20 years of student success and achievement. We are proud of the Valued Youth tutors for making the decision to continue their education.”
– Ingrid Saunders Jones, Chairperson,
For more information on the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program contact IDRA at 210-444-1710, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.idra.org/coca-cola-valued-youth-program/
Comments and questions may be directed to IDRA via e-mail at email@example.com.
[©2004, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the October 2004 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.]