• by Anahi Ortiz • IDRA Newsletter • August 2019 •

I was supposed to be in child development, but when my counselor told me the next level was a parenting class, I lost interest. I didn’t want to do it, and not because I didn’t like it or didn’t like the teacher. I didn’t want to take the fake baby home and deal with the fake crying.

My counselor gave me another option. He told me that our school had a program that would pay for being in class and tutoring little kids. I didn’t have to think about it twice. I just nodded my head up and down desperately saying, “Yes!” At first, I didn’t have a clue about what I had to do. All I heard was that I was going to get paid just for going to class. Who wouldn’t love that?

I thank my school counselor because, even though I saw it as easy money, I learned valuable lessons. The [Valued Youth Partnership*] program is one of the most important programs in my school.

I learned to see other people’s perspectives and to make connections with my tutees. I learned how teachers struggle to find new techniques to teach their students every day. I learned how to form a bond and communicate with little kids. The kids share their state of mind, and I loved it. They have taught me more than I’ve taught them. I love my tutee and I really have fun teaching and learning about him.

I now see education in a different way. My tutees’ teacher developed a way to let her kiddos know where they stand in their reading, and it helped me know where my student stands. She decorated her door as a race track, and the goal was to get to the finish line. Some students are very close to the goal. The closer they were, the easier second grade would be. My tutee started the year at the back of the race track, and his car never moved. Throughout the year, we worked on reading and recognizing words. Each week, as he got better and his car moved, the more confidence he built. While his reading car was not at the head of the pack, it moved evenly with some of the other kids’ cars in his class. My tutee is excited to keep reading and makes progress every week. I am so proud of his hard work.

I’ve experienced a lot with my tutee while in the [Valued Youth Partnership]. I would leave the classroom with a headache. I found this weird because I loved kids. Why did this one give me headaches? At first, I didn’t know how to teach him because he moved too much. Once I even thought he was too hyper for me, but then I realized that I’m the same way. Even though nobody told me, I know I have a lot of energy and to get rid of it I start to move and talk a lot. It seemed like I traveled back in time and was teaching myself. When I was little, I loved to have everyone’s full attention and to make eye contact with my teacher because it made me feel more secure. While I worked with my tutee, I realized that he was my exact reflection. I found that crazy because he ended up with me, someone who has been through the same thing he’s going through. Is this destiny or just God’s plan? We might never know. But what I do know is that the [Valued Youth Partnership] helped me impact another person’s life by helping him improve his reading skills. I couldn’t be happier.

Anahi Ortiz recently graduated from Odessa High School in Ector County ISD. She is an IDRA Valued Youth Partnership first-place essay contest winner.

[©2019, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the August 2019 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.]

* Following the successful expansion of the Coca‑Cola Valued Youth Program to school districts across the country, IDRA and the Coca-Cola Foundation celebrate our longstanding partnership. On behalf of all of our valued youth tutors, families, teachers coordinators, and school and university partners, IDRA is profoundly grateful to the foundation for its visionary and stalwart support of this program. Our unique collaboration from 1984 to June 2019 led to formation of the program’s distinctive five instructional strategies and five support strategies, its strong research base and evaluation design, as well as development of resources for participating schools. IDRA will continue to carry forward this transformational program, now known as the IDRA Valued Youth Partnership.