• by Lanala Hayes • IDRA Newsletter • August 2012 •

Editor’s Note: IDRA sponsored a national essay competition among participants in the 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 had helped them do better in school and how they had helped their tutees to do better. Six students received prizes. Below is the essay of the first place winner at the high school level.

High School Winning Essay

Lanala Hayes

9th Grade, Phillis Wheatley High School, Houston

Like the first rocket to land on the moon, something changed. I was a kid with no thought of what I would be doing after high school, a kid who didn’t care about my grades. But just like a flower trying to stay nourished in a desert or a flower trying to bloom in concrete, it seemed impossible. But soon enough the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program helped to change me.

I walked into the elementary classroom thinking: “Easy as cake, all I have to do is tutor a few kids and I get some money? Ha, I could do this with my eyes closed and my hands tied behind my back.” I came as cocky as they could have come. I knew I had all the knowledge I needed to tutor second grade, and that just made me think I was like Captain Crunch: “All the kids want me.” I was confident that I could teach second grade.

The first day I walked into Alexandra’s* school, I felt a different atmosphere. Like fireflies attracted to a porch light, a bunch of kids came before me with nothing but smiles. I felt like it was cool to be smart even if it was just to a bunch of 10 year olds. We walked into the classroom we were supposed to tutor in, and the teacher then assigned the students that she thought needed us to help. Before I could even say anything else other then my name, Alexandra asked, “How do you spell though?” And I told her without even a hesitation to think of how you spell it. She looked at me in somewhat wonder and awe. I left her school that day trying to shake a feeling that I can’t describe but secretly wish it would follow me forever like my own shadow.

Like a glass slowly cracking, I was starting to get the concept of school. I was starting to think of what would happen if I didn’t get my high school diploma or if I didn’t get enough credits. What type of job or college would I get into? If I didn’t go to a good college would it affect the type of job I could apply for? Would I have to work at a fast food place all my life? The more I went to Alex’s school, the more I thought about this kind of stuff. I started trying harder in school, striving for A’s and B’s, and my teachers took notice. They were always trying to help me, but now that I actually wanted their help and was accepting their help, my grades were getting better. That glass that was lightly cracking, I was no longer afraid to let it break.

I’ve been tutoring Alex for almost two semesters now, and I can honestly say she’s made progress. Alex can now spell though without needing any help. Helping Alex at her school also helped me at my school. The Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program helped me with my grades and my future. Though its purpose may have been to help a little bit younger students, I think it helped me more than Alex. The Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program and Alex landed my rocket that was going off course and helped keep my flower nourished in the desert. It’s helped me more than I could give thanks for. And that glass that was cracking? It didn’t only break, it shattered.

*name changed for privacy


For more information on the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program contact IDRA at 210-444-1710 or contact@idra.org or visit www.idra.org/coca-cola-valued-youth-program/

Comments and questions may be directed to IDRA via e-mail at feedback@idra.org.

[©2012, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the August 2012 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.]