• IDRA Newsletter • October 2001

The Coca-Cola Foundation featured a Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program tutor in it latest annual report, Freddie a 13-year-old in Brooklyn. In an interview, he said that last semester, he was absent so often that he found it nearly impossible to keep up with his eighth-grade class. “School bored him,” states the report, “He was failing most of his classes –and he didn’t care.”

Everything changed when Freddie became a Coca­Cola Valued Youth Program tutor to three third-grade students.

Created by the Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA), the Coca­Cola Valued Youth Program, is an internationally-recognized cross-age tutoring program in schools across the United States, Great Britain and Brazil. Since its inception in San Antonio in 1984 until 2001, the program kept more than 11,500 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 240 schools in 24 cities keep 98 percent of Valued Youth students in school, keeping these young people in the classroom and learning. For more than 17 years, IDRA and The Coca­Cola Foundation have worked together in a unique partnership that is making a visible difference in the lives of more than 129,000 children, families and educators.

In the Coca­Cola Valued Youth Program, secondary students who are considered at risk of dropping out of school are placed as tutors of elementary students, enabling the older students to make a difference in the younger students’ lives. With a growing sense of responsibility and pride, the tutors stay and do better in school. The program supports them with positive recognition and instruction.

Freddie told the Foundation: “The third-graders think I’m an older, cooler kid, so they look up to me. I like helping people. Teaching the little kids makes me feel better about myself.” His grades have risen an average of 20 points, and he is rarely absent now.

Amy Dawson is the school’s teacher coordinator for the program. She told the Foundation: “For years, Freddie wasn’t excited about school. This program has turned him around. It’s working. Now he does care, and he’s going to make it.”

IDRA Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program – Philosophy

  1. All students can learn. This means all students: of all colors, of all languages, of all backgrounds, with or without designer clothes. All students can learn.
  2. The school values all students. There are no “throw-aways.” There are no students who are not important. All students are valuable.
  3. All students can actively contribute to their own education and to the education of others. Students are not passive vessels to which we give information. Not only are they active learners but they also can become teachers of others.
  4. All students, parents and teachers have the right to participate fully in creating and maintaining excellent schools. We are all partners in this. We all participate.
  5. Excellence in schools contributes to individual and collective economic growth, stability and advancement. Our sense, our philosophy is that we are all “at risk” as long as students are “at risk.” Different sectors in this country are realizing that. It is not only what happens to me as an individual when I drop out of school, it is what happens to us.
  6. Commitment to educational excellence is created by including students, parents and teachers in setting goals, making decisions, monitoring progress and evaluating outcomes. Excellence requires involving all of the players in deciding where we are going and how we are getting there and in monitoring how we are doing.
  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. Each of these groups needs each other and must support each other

For more information about the Coca ­Cola Valued Youth Program, contact Linda Cantu at IDRA (210-444-1710) or send an e-mail to feedback@idra.org.

[©2001, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the October 2001 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.]