• by Isaac Mata • IDRA Newsletter • February 2012 •

Isaac Mata

7th grade, Ann W. Richards Middle School, La Joya, Texas

Editor’s Note: IDRA sponsored a national essay competition in 2011 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 middle school level.

How the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program Has Helped Me

It all began five months ago. I was sitting in my class doing what I usually do. All of a sudden, Mrs. Moreno said, “Isaac one of your electives is now V.Y.P.” Then I asked, “What’s that?” Mrs. Moreno told me, “You will be working with little kids at the elementary.” I said, “No.” I have two nephews, and they bother me. Mrs. Moreno insisted by saying, “Give it a try.” “Ok, Mrs. Moreno,” I said. When I got home, I began to think about it some more, and this is when I decided to join it. I could not sleep that night, I was so excited! I could not wait to start my new experience.

As I was sitting on the bus on my way to the elementary school, I began to feel super nervous because I didn’t know anyone, and I have only been in the United States for two years and was afraid my English wasn’t that good. As soon as we got to the elementary school, I asked Mrs. Cuevas what I needed to do. She told me, “You need to help the students and work super hard.” “Ok,” I said. When I entered in the classroom, all the pre-kinder students looked at me like I was an alien. This made me feel even more nervous. I was thinking, “Crazy kids! This is going to be boring!”

Then, Mrs. Cuevas assigned a little tiny guy as my student for the year. His name is Josue*. Mrs. Cuevas started talking with the student, then I started working with my student. At first, he misbehaved a lot! I got upset often because the little guy didn’t want to do his work. Then, it was time to go back to the school. When I got to my house, my nephew started to remind me of the little student. I went to bed early because I was getting upset with my nephew and was exhausted from school.

I went to school the next day feeling very worried because I was thinking about what might happen with the little student that day.

When, I went to the elementary school, I told my student that, if he did his work, everything was going to be easy. My student asked me, “Is that true?” “Yeah,” I said, “If only you do your work.” “Hmm, Ok,” he said. I started feeling better because my student seemed to understand, and he started behaving. Every day, the little guy got better at his schoolwork and began to look forward for me to go to help him. I also began to like teaching him. I even took him a present for Christmas and missed helping him with his schoolwork during the vacation.

As the days passed by, my nephews didn’t bother me as much anymore. I was learning to control my temper. I started looking forward to going to the elementary school to help the little guy. I no longer felt nervous or upset. I know I could help this student be a better student.

Payday arrived! I was feeling excited to get my first paycheck! The money helped me tremendously because I could now buy the things that I needed, for example school materials and shoes, and, more importantly, I could finally buy my glasses to see better. Having my glasses now is going to help me do better in my classes. I could also help my family with money. Yes, I enjoy the money, but the money is not the most important thing. The future of my student is more important than anything else. I want my student be the number one in everything. Now, my student is better at school than before. I feel so excited every day when I go to school because my student is learning a lot, and I learned how to be calmer with kids, my family and my friends. I feel I have grown in many ways. I am very grateful to the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program for giving me this opportunity. I am now more helpful, understanding, responsible and patient.

I know now that I can help my family and others who need money. I don’t want to go back to the way things were before. I only want to become even better at helping others. I signed up to help a student with his schoolwork, but in the end he helped me become a better person.

*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 question may be directed to IDRA via email at feedback@idra.org.

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