Valued Youth Partnership

Ana Luisa Valenzuela – 2017 First Place High School Essay Winner

IDRA Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program – 2017 Essay Contest

Ana Luisa Valenzuela

12th Grade, Odessa High School, Ector County ISD, Texas. Winner: High School First Place

I’m going to be quite frank with you, I’m not going to tell you some generic story about how I joined the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program because I love working with kids. Although I really do love working with kids, that’s not the real reason I got into this program in the beginning. To be honest, the reason I joined was because I thought it would be cool to get some extra cash just for going to class. But I took a little more than just money from this program.

Little did I know that this program would impact my perspective on teachers and my life. I realized that our teachers are underappreciated for what they do every day. We, as students, believe that teachers are people who nag us from eight to four, but they are actually building blocks for our future. I thank you for that.

This also made me understand how impressionable and vulnerable kids are in this world. I didn’t realize that I would be a role model for these kids. Every day that I enter my classroom, I get welcomed with hugs and artwork that my tutee and his classmates created. Every day, I get told stories about what they did the previous day. I feel like if a kid can tell you about their day or a secret, you are a role model and, more importantly, a friend to them.

I believe that I learned more from my tutee than he learned from me. He may have learned his ABCs and his numbers, but I learned way more than that. I learned that every child needs a “backbone” to support him or her. I learned that not every child has that stability at home and, as a random stranger, I became that backbone for some of those kids who didn’t have anyone. These kids came to me with a smile and a hug every day. And that is something that cost nothing, yet means everything.

“Success isn’t about how much money you make; it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives” (Michelle Obama). This world is a very cruel and cold place, and if we do not spread kindness, love and joy, we will become cold too. We must help each other because if not, no one else will.

See color highlights flier for 2017 (pdf).

See the booklet with all the winning essays from 2017 (pdf).

The Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program, created by IDRA, is an internationally-recognized cross-age tutoring program. According to the Valued Youth creed, all students are valuable, none is expendable. The lives of more than 671,000 children, families and educators have been positively impacted by the program.