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Valued Youth Partnership

Andre Merritt

Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program – 2010 Essay Contest

High School Second Place

Looking Back

Tutoring. Some take it lightly, and look at it like more money, or in my case for an extra credit toward graduation. What I knew about the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program was that I would be working with some elementary school kids in math and reading. It sounded like an “easy” A to me, so I joined. But I never would have thought that what I was about to get into would be more than an “easy” A but an experience that I would hold on to for the rest of my life.

The first week was kind of crazy because my two co-workers and I were new to the class. The teacher we had been assigned to was also new to the class, so it took so adjusting. However soon everything fell into place. We were assigned to our three tutees who we would be working with for the year. My students were: Ruby, Ana, and Abel*. Ayana is very outspoken youngster who loves to talk. Ana is very smart, but sometimes does not know how to let other people shine. And then Abel.

Abel was a new student and did not know anyone nor did he know anything about
Fayetteville . Abel was the most difficult in the group. He got off task a lot, daydreamed, and seemed like he kept to himself. His teacher motivates him a lot in order to keep on task. He rejected her as if she was against him. Anyone who tried to help Abel, or told him something, got a taste of his attitude or got mouthed off at. And if he was really having a bad day, he may buck up at the teacher.

It was scary, horrifying because this 10-year old boy that I only knew for maybe a month or two, was acting the exact way I acted when I was his age. His mannerisms, his attitude, and everything in between was me. He was my “mini-me.” No one understood him. No one ever sat down and asked him how he was doing or gave him some encouragement to help him out during the day. Everyone thought he was just a problem child, but I didn’t. I understand, because I already experienced it. I understood that he didn’t want anyone to see him vulnerable, so he made himself frown so no one would bother him. I understood how he felt alone because he was new and talked differently then most of the kids here. I understood that he settled for ordinary instead of taking the extra step toward extraordinary because no one believed in him, so he didn’t believe in himself. I saw this and it astonished me. I never met anyone younger than me that I could honestly say, “He acts just like me.”

So every day I saw Abel, 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 made sure that I encouraged him to never give up and to always do his best no matter what. He shared things with me whenever he could, and the things he told me confirmed that he was living a very similar life I lived when I was a child. I told him about some of the experiences that I had to deal with when I was his age, and I could tell that he was really listening and taking the things I said to heart. He confided in me, and told me that he thought I was a good tutor and a better friend.

People don’t realize how much influence or impact they have on other people, young or old. They don’t even think about how their words or actions can affect a person. How a simple “Good Job” or “You look very nice,” or even “Hello” can affect someone. We go about our day thinking about our problems, so self-absorbed that we don’t see that the person right beside you could be going through the same thing. Because you are so focused on you, you don’t even think about how you may be able to help them or vice versa.

This program has not only enabled myself to tutor three very smart kids, but it also let me help someone using my own similar experiences and wisdom. I started this only expecting one thing, a credit. But, when this is completely over with, I will not only be coming out with my credit but also able to know that not everything we do is for the reason that we planned it to be. I am grateful that I could make a difference in the lives of our future generation, because they have certainly made a difference in mine.