IDRA Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program – 2016 Essay Contest
Winner: Middle School First Place
8th Grade, MS 331 The Bronx School of Young Leaders, New York City
Have you ever looked back at something you didn’t want to do and, after doing it, actually took delight? I’m Alexandra Sánchez, 14 years young, and a tutor from the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program. Let me just be candid with you from the start, I was in it for the money at first. I wanted to go to work and get paid. I wasn’t passionate about being a tutor. Since I’ve become a tutor, I’ve learned a few things, not only for future jobs, but also how tutoring led me to see how important it is to have support. As a child or an adult, you need someone to push you to your fullest and let your potential peek through all doubt and confusion.
Since I’ve become a tutor, I’ve been exposed to many great things. My first job – not many people can say they’ve had a job at a young age. That’s an advantage already. I’ve become more responsible. I’ve created my first resume so when I get another job, I can present it and look professional. I can envision myself in the future applying for jobs and being prepared. This tutoring job had certain requirements to be able to keep the job: dressing in a school uniform, keeping grades up, arriving to school every day on time. If the truth be told I didn’t want to lose my job, so following the requirements became a necessity. This job has kept me going when I just wanted to throw in the books and give up on my school work.
I’ve had to make sacrifices, as a young person. I can say that one of the most important things in middle school to me is being able to hang out with friends. The tutoring job was scheduled when I had enrichment (gym, art, technology), where I could talk to my friends without limit, and it wasn’t a distraction to any teachers. I gave that up to work with second grade students. I might have complained about it multiple times, but I’m glad I made the sacrifice.
Moving along, I had three tutees, Luis, Brent and Jason*. I noticed that they were very smart right off the bat, but they just needed the push to get them working on their own. They needed confidence in themselves, because there would be times where they had the right answer but did not state it for fear of being wrong. They second-guessed themselves a lot. That’s when I realized that I did that myself too. It wasn’t just them.
Everyone needs that person who supports them no matter what, no matter the circumstances. That supporter builds a confidence in a person. After a while, a person starts doing the stuff on their own. My tutees at first called me all the time to help them with questions. After a while of motivating them and telling them they could do it, they started believing they could too. I remember once, I went up to one of my tutees, Luis. I asked him if he needed any help, and he said, “I got it, I got it.” It was so heartwarming! When I went back to check his answer, it was right. He did get it. After his teacher of course, I felt like I accomplished something. That goes for my other two tutees too, Brent and Jason. They can accomplish their work on their own too. Comparing them from the beginning when I first started this job, to present day, their confidence has drastically changed. That’s memorable to me because, when I look back at this job, it won’t just be that I helped them with work, I helped them find the capability in themselves, even if they don’t fully understand it themselves.
This reality check has made me understand how I can build up my confidence when I need it the most. Talking to someone older with more wisdom helps me. If I’m taking the wrong path, my supporter will there telling me to take a step back and reflect on what I’m doing. Not only this, but I look at my teachers differently now. I’m the tutee in my teacher’s eyes. All they want is for their students to succeed, trying to give us “tutees” (me and my fellow classmates) the support we need.
As I get older, when I’m done with high school and I’m off to college, this is the advice I’ll use for myself. When I feel like school is becoming a burden and it’s too much to carry, I’ll find a supporter – one who will help me through the times of darkness and just be there the way I am for my tutees.
I’m very grateful for this job and all the skills the Coco-Cola Valued Youth Program has given me for future life experiences. I’ve learned self-confidence and job skills. Now I work by the quote, “The support of one is a part of real foundation and existence” (unknown). Since I became a tutor, the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program has taught me responsibility, sacrifice, and what it means to truly support another human being.
*names changed for privacy