• by Maria “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, Ph.D. • IDRA Newsletter • October 2012 • Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, Ph.D.

It is my privilege and my pleasure to celebrate with you the success of the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program in Brazil. During the last 13 years, we at IDRA have worked with the Brazilian team to assure a better future for the youth of that country. And we have achieved it. More than 36,500 Brazilian youths in 86 schools throughout 22 cities in nine states benefited from the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program. I would like to extend our most sincere congratulations and thanks to each one of the students, teachers, school principals, and the parents of the families who made possible the successful accomplishment of the program mission.Editor’s Note: The following was presented in Spanish at an event in Brazil marking the completion of the Coca‑Cola Valued Youth Program there and marking the many success stories from the program during its 13 years in Brazil ce. The original Spanish-language version is available online at www.idra.org as is a video presentation with highlights of the program.

When we developed the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program, we did not know that it would grow and help so many youth from the United States, Puerto Rico, the United Kingdom and Brazil – youth of all colors, social classes, skills, communities and languages.

The valuing of each student is the foundation of the program. This approach is based on our analysis of the reasons behind students’ leaving the school prematurely. Although there might be many and complex causes for students to drop out of school, fundamentally, the problem is that students are disconnected from school. When students are convinced that the school is not their place, leaving this seemingly hostile or inhospitable place appears to be the most logical decision. The goal of the program is to have students know that they belong in school.

And this is not achieved only with words, but also with actions. Through the program, participating students become leaders, serving as tutors, helping to educate younger children in the early grades. The program helps to establish a school environment that values students so that they know they belong in school, giving the best of themselves. And so, through the program, the school becomes the place where they rediscover their capacity to contribute to themselves, to their families and to society as a whole. Many students have expressed this profound inner transformation through their own poetry.

One of these poems, called “The Trail,” was read in one of the end-of-year events in Brazil.

Had I known that this trail was so simple

Had I known I would have so much joy

Had I known I would gain so much

I would have traveled it sooner

But the moment came

The right time was at hand

The Program arrived

And the trail widened

I learned new ways

I walked trails never traveled before

With full hands we arrived to the New!

We grew together

And now we can dream of a better future!

The statistics are revealing. More than 36,000 students were affected in this profound way by the program. According to their parents, many of these students were saved from the dangers of the streets, such as delinquency and drug abuse. The Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program helped them with their self-concept and discipline, transformed their emotional and academic lives, and enabled a more promising future for them through their continued focus on achieving their educational goals. We feel the same emotion expressed by that poem because we know that thousands of other students share it too.

I wish each of you the best. I wish Coca-Cola Brazil and the Instituto Coca-Cola success in their new initiatives. And I assure you that this experience of working together toward such a noble goal will always be in the heart of all at IDRA who were lucky enough to contribute to this project. Obrigada. Gracias. Thank you.


For information about the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program in the United States, contact IDRA or visit our website (http://www.idra.org/coca-cola-valued-youth-program/).

María Robledo Montecel, Ph.D., is IDRA’s president and CEO. Comments and questions may be directed to her via e-mail at feedback@idra.org.

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