“Thanks to those young children, I am a much better person than ever. It makes me feel as though anything is possible.”
– Kayla Rugg

Six students received prizes in a national competition among participants in the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program, a nationally-recognized cross-age tutoring program of the Intercultural Development Research Association. 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.

•  First Place High School Winner – Kwame’ Weatherall, Lee High School, Houston ISD,

 •  Second Place High School Winner – Andre Merritt, Fuller Performance Learning Center, Cumberland County Schools

 •  Third Place High School Winner – Kayla Rugg, Fuller Performance Learning Center, Cumberland County Schools, North Carolina

•  First Place Middle School Winner – Wendy Ramírez, Dr. Javier Sáenz Middle School, La Joya ISD,

 •  Second Place Middle School Winner – Phylicia Molette, Kennedy Middle School, Atlanta Public Schools, Georgia

•  Third Place Middle School Winner – Valeria Acevedo, Ann Richards Middle School, La Joya ISD,

 There were competitions at both the middle school and high school levels in the
United States. Winners from each competition are being awarded $200 for first place, $150 for second place and $100 for third place.

In his essay, Kwame’ Weatherall wrote: “Ever since I joined this program, my attitude has changed toward helping people who are in need or struggling… When I see a smile from my tutees, it gives me the sign that I am a great person as a role model and as a growing man.”

“I never met anyone younger than me that I could honestly say, ‘He acts just like me,’” Andre Merritt wrote in his essay. “So every day I saw Lloyd, and I treated him the way I wanted to be treated when I was his age. He saw himself as a nobody, a failure, even a mistake. I made sure that by 9:10 a.m. he felt like a somebody, a winner and a blessing.”

“I have discovered that when my tutees see that I am doing well in school, they also strive to do well,” wrote Kayla Rugg. “This has been an extremely good motivator for me. I never dreamed that I could possibly make a 3.8 grade point average. Thanks to those young children, I am a much better person than ever. It makes me feel as though anything is possible.”

In her essay, Wendy Ramírez wrote, “Before, I thought that staying in school was a waste of time… But all those thoughts changed since I entered this program. Now, I realize that staying in school is good for my future and for those who surround me… I believe that no one of these changes would have happened without the help that the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program has given me.”

“When I look into the big, bold, bright and beautiful eyes of my tutee, I think of all the opportunities I gained from being a tutor,” Phylicia Molette wrote in her essay. “I no longer only look at the world from my perspective but also strive to look at it from everyone’s perspective. Since I became a tutor, I understand younger children better, appreciate teachers more, and have become a wiser, mature, confident student and role model.”

Valeria Acevedo wrote: “I have answered back to my teacher, and my tutee has responded back to me. When they answer back to me it breaks my heart, so I’ve learned not to answer back to teachers. When I was in fifth grade, my life was worthless. Now I feel that I am worthy. I have gotten good grades.”

The Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program, created by IDRA, is an internationally-recognized cross-age tutoring program. Since its inception in 1984, the program has kept more than 30,600 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. The lives of more than 690,000 children, families and educators have been positively impacted by the program.

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

[©2010, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the March 2010IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Every effort has been made to maintain the content in its original form. However, accompanying charts and graphs may not be provided here. To receive a copy of the original article by mail or fax, please fill out our information request and feedback form. 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.]