“I don’t want to go back to the way things were before. I only want to become even better at helping others.” – Isaac Mata

Also available in pdf.

San Antonio, May 18, 2011 – 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 WinnerKayla Rugg of Fuller Performance Learning Center, Cumberland County Schools, North Carolina
  • Second Place High School WinnerNabeel Sattar of Lee High School, Houston
  • Third Place High School WinnerBriana Pardue of Odessa High School, Odessa, Texas
  • First Place Middle School WinnerIsaac Mata of Ann W. Richards Middle School, La Joya Texas
  • Second Place Middle School Winner Luis Vallejo of Juan D. Salinas Middle School, La Joya, Texas
  • Third Place Middle School WinnerArlette Calderon of Memorial Middle School, La Joya, Texas

We are looking for former
Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program tutors!

The Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program has been in existence for 27 years, and we have created a free web site for former tutors to network with each other and to support each other in areas such as getting to college and employment. If you know former tutors, have them contact us at 210-444-1710 or

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 her essay, Kayla Rugg wrote: “What will I remember the most about this whole experience in the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program?… I was on the brink of losing everything that I had worked so hard for. Then, things just went from bad and skipped over worse to extremely terrible. The only thing that kept my feet firmly planted on the ground was the knowledge that I was here for someone else, and they were depending on me… These children were my light.” 

“The Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program has helped me in a variety of ways. It has given me new experiences that have made me a more compassionate and patient person… tutoring opened up my eyes to many things,” Nabeel Sattar wrote in his essay. “Since I started tutoring, I have also come to appreciate my teachers more. I understand the struggles they go through and how demanding and difficult their job is… The experiences I have had in the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program have been very unique and eye opening, and the lessons I have learned have helped me become a better person in and outside of the classroom.”

“The Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program has made me a better student because interaction with children has helped me be more caring and understanding,” wrote Briana Pardue. “Knowing that my tutees are expecting me to be there, I enjoy going every day. I stand in the teacher’s shoes as far as knowing how the student feels when he or she doesn’t want to cooperate, so I try to work with my teachers more closely because of it… I understand now that we can all improve a student’s outlook on school by taking time a few minutes a day to help out.”

In his essay, Isaac Mata wrote: “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 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.”

“When school started, I felt a big emptiness inside me. I felt that if I missed a day of class no one would notice. I also felt that I didn’t make a difference in anyone’s life. With me or without me, the world would be the same,” Luis Vallejo wrote in his essay. “Now that I started this program called the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program, I now have a better self-esteem. Through the VYP, three kids have made a change in my life… I now know that I am making a big difference in their lives as they are making one in my life.”

Arlette Calderon wrote: “Tutoring means a whole lot to me. I can’t explain how it has not only helped me and many others who have struggled in school with academics… This opportunity doesn’t come knocking on the door everyday, so I’m really lucky. I not only have such great tutees, but throughout the time, I think we have become friends… I feel that I have made a difference in their lives. I will always remember being part of the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program.”

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 32,000 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 721,000 children, families and educators have been positively impacted by the program.


The text of all of the winning essays are available online at:


IDRA contact for media: Christie L. Goodman, APR at IDRA, 210-444-1710 (christie.goodman@idra.org).

IDRA is an independent, private non-profit organization, directed by María Robledo Montecel, Ph.D., dedicated to strengthening public schools that work for all children. As a vanguard leadership development and research team for more than three decades, IDRA has worked with people to create self-renewing schools that value and empower all children, families and communities. IDRA conducts research and development activities, creates, implements and administers innovative education programs and provides teacher, administrator, and parent training and technical assistance