• IDRA Newsletter • September 1999

A middle school teacher and two seventh-grade students from Lincoln Multicultural Middle School in Washington, D.C., testified on the
Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program before a congressional committee. The hearing on May 18, 1999, was held by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and was focused on “dropout prevention and educating the forgotten half.” Below is the text of their presentations.

Marcos Price, seventh grader
Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program tutor

My name is Marcos Price. I am a seventh grader at Lincoln Middle School here in Washington, D.C. I live with my mother and two brothers. One of my brothers attends Radford Virginia College, and one of my brothers is an artist.

I have been in the
Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program for one year. I tutor two first-grade students at Bancroft Elementary School. I tutor them in math and phonics. Their elementary teacher tells me what the tutees are having trouble with.

When I first worked with them, the tutees didn’t know how to add and subtract. Now that I have worked with them, they do. Their attitude has improved also. At first, they wouldn’t listen to me. Now they are happy to see me. They come and give me a hug. When I don’t go to tutor, they miss me. The elementary teacher I work with told me that she really has seen improvement in the tutees since the beginning of the year.

The program has helped me a lot too. Last year, I used to do my work, but I didn’t really take it seriously. I used to hang out in the hallway; I didn’t care about school. I thought I could get off with an easy education. My attitude has changed.

I used to talk back to teachers and didn’t care what any of them said. But since I’ve been in the program, I now see that I shouldn’t disrespect them.

My mom says I have really changed since I’ve been in the program, even since the first couple of days. When I come home, I am really glad to see her. I always tell my mom, “I love you, Mom.” She always tells me how much I have improved.

And I think I have improved because I have been working as a tutor in this program. The Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program has changed my attitude about being a good student. The teacher coordinator, Mr. Adams, really helped me. He tutors me and helps with the problems I have. He also teaches us to be on time. He wants us to have a better life.

I am glad I am in the program. I really wanted to help the tutees. I am also glad I am getting paid. This is my first job. One day last week, I saw one of my first-grade tutees on the playground by himself at about 8:00 at night. I saw him there, and I took him to eat and then took him home. I was worried that he was out there by himself and thought it was my responsibility to help him.

I knew if I got into the program I would have to change. I knew I was going to have to be an example to the younger kids. I am glad for this program, because it really did change my attitude, and my grades got better.

Anna Rosario, seventh grader
Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program tutor

My name is Anna Rosario. I am a seventh grader at Lincoln Middle School. I live with my mom and dad and two brothers. I have been in the
Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program for two years.

During my first year as a tutor, I tutored kindergartners. I taught them the ABCs, numbers and started them reading. This year, I am tutoring two first-grade students at Bancroft Elementary School. I tutor them in math, reading and vocabulary. The first-grade teacher gives me the assignments for the tutees. She tells me that the tutees have improved their vocabulary since I started working with them.

The tutees used to play around a lot. Since I started to tutor them, I have taught them that when it is time to work, it is time to work and when it is time to play, then you can play. I feel I have helped the tutees feel better about themselves. They used to feel they couldn’t do the work. Now, they complete their work and they even ask for more. I have made the work fun for them.

Before I participated in the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program, I didn’t like to go to school. A few times, I even participated in “skipping parties.” I almost got involved in a gang because I am at that age when you don’t care what anybody says. My friends drank, and they would always say “get in, get in.” I disrespected my teachers and even my mom. I had terrible grades. I made Fs in school.

Today, now that I’ve been in the program, I want to come to school. I participate in sports. I try hard to do all my work. I respect my teachers. I am more mature about my work and other responsibilities. Now I make Bs and Cs. I get along with my mom now. It is a better picture of my life.

Mr. Adams, my teacher coordinator, has helped me because he has encouraged me to be more mature and responsible. He has told us that we have to be role models to the tutees.

Being part of the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program teaches you a valuable lesson. Before I became a tutor, I didn’t do my work, and my teachers would get upset. Now that I am a tutor, I get upset when the tutees won’t do their work. So I’ve learned that I should pay attention and do my work in class. Now I try hard to do my work. I can see that my teachers feel good about what I’ve done. And when I get an ‘A’ on my work I feel happy and that all that hard work wasn’t for nothing.

I am glad I became a tutor in the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program because it made me see things differently. I have become more mature and a better student.

Courtney Adams, middle school teacher
Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program teacher coordinator

My name is Courtney Adams. I am a teacher at Lincoln Multicultural Middle School. I have taught at Lincoln Middle School in the DC Public Schools for nine years. In January 1997, I became the teacher coordinator for the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program. This program was created by the Intercultural Development Research Association and has received outstanding recognition for its success. It is a cross-age tutoring dropout prevention program that takes middle and high school students who are considered at-risk of leaving school and places them as tutors of elementary students. The students tutor these younger children (called tutees) in core subjects such as reading, math and language arts.

The program gives tutors an opportunity to develop and improve their own academic skills while helping younger students. It also paces them in positions of responsibility, which allows them to improve their attitudes toward school and demonstrate their value as students. School officials also learn to recognize that value.

The tutors are paid a minimum wage stipend to show how important their work as tutors is. The students tutor four days a week during their particular class period and meet one day to participate in a class where they discuss progress of their tutees and issues that come up as they tutor. They also participate in teambuilding and personal awareness activities.

During the past three years, we have had 65 tutors in the program. The students are selected for the program because (1) they are underachieving academically and/or (2) they are struggling with their attendance or school discipline. Teachers from Lincoln Middle School identify many of these students as being at-risk because they live in a community where there is a lot of gang activity, they have friends or family who use drugs, they have been in trouble with the law, or they have a history of truancy or poor grades. Not all of our students fit these specific criteria, but many of them experience one or more of these difficulties. Some of the students selected for the program are not presently having academic difficulties in school but were selected because of the community that surrounds them. They were selected to provide them with an alternative to some of the negative pressures that are in their environment.

The Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program at Lincoln Middle School has proven very successful. Of the 48 students who participated in one or both of the first two years, at least 81.2 percent (39) are still in school. Traditionally, when the program has been in at a school for two or three years, the retention rate goes up to 98 percent.

We have students with truancy problems; one student in our program was absent more than 60 days from school the previous year. Because of it, she was held back one year. This year, she has missed only seven days. During this last eight-week period, she hasn’t missed any days. She is passing all of her courses. I attribute most of the turn around, if not all, to her participation in the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program.

We have also had students with discipline problems, for example one young man was referred at least 15 times for discipline problems last year. This year he has only been referred three times.

Of the six students who were retained last year and selected for the program this year, so far five are on target to move to the next grade.

During this year, one student’s mother came to see me to tell me how happy she was with her son being in the program. She spoke about how his attitude has changed at home and how much easier he is to talk to. His grade point average has gone from a 0.5 (below failing) to a 3.7 (B+).

As I have worked with the elementary schools, elementary teachers are constantly asking me when are they going to get more tutors. They love the consistency of the program. The tutors show up every day. They love the fact that the tutors are young and make a quick connection with the tutees. The tutees idolize them, they want to please the tutors and do well for them. Some elementary teachers have said they would rather have a Valued Youth tutor than a college student because they feel the positive outcomes have been much greater with the younger tutors. The tutors are also kids from the tutees’ own communities.

The Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program has been one of the most successful programs in our school over the past three years, and we hope to continue the program and even expand it next year. Although the primary focus of this program is dropout prevention, rigorous research has shown it has many positive impacts for students in academics, self concept, responsibility, attendance, family relationships as well as impacts for schools like keeping students in school, discipline, improved relationships with families and embracing a new philosophy that “all students are valuable, none is expendable.”

The Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program, created by the Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA), is an internationally-recognized cross-age tutoring program in schools across the United States, Puerto Rico, Great Britain and Brazil. Since its inception in San Antonio in 1984, the program has kept more than 5,500 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 more than 200 schools in 17 cities keep 98 percent of Valued Youth students in school, keeping these young people in the classroom and learning. For more than 15 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 74,500 children, families and educators. For more information, contact Linda Cantu, M.A., at IDRA (210-444-1710; feedback@idra.org). Comments and questions may be directed to IDRA via e-mail at feedback@idra.org.

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