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Valued Youth Partnership

Arlette Calderon

Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program – 2011 Essay Contest

Winner: Middle School Third Place

Arlette Calderon
7th grade, Memorial Middle School, La Joya, Texas

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Returning a Favor

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. I’m glad that I’m a member of the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program.

I, for one, struggled in school when I was younger for a very long time. But things changed dramatically for me in the second grade when a girl, Marcela*, came to help me. She helped me become a smarter and better person. To think that I was once so close to being part of the special education program. Then someone sent an angel from heaven to help me and put my future in a better path. If only I could meet her again to thank and tell her how grateful I am. Marcela was a big part of my life. Actually, she was so important to me that I suggested we name my little niece, Marcela, and my sister loved the name.

I am so glad that there is a program for young students to help out those who are struggling. When my migrant teacher told me there was a tutoring program, I knew that this was my chance to return the favor. I was up for the idea of V.Y.P to be one of my electives for seventh grade year. I remember when my first teacher told me we were going to get paid, I didn’t believe it. Now I’m getting $100 a month. However, I’m just glad that I got a chance to work with young children. My tutees are Víctor* and Carmina*. They are really smart students, but they just need the extra help. With the help of their really great and smart teacher and a fabulous tutor, I know they will crush the TAKS and be ready for next year. I have confidence in them. I feel this has been a great experience. 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. They tell me about their problems, with their friends and family. So, in other words, I’m not only their tutor, but also their friend, and a “mini Dr. Phil.” So, just like Marcela, I feel that I have made a difference in their lives.

I will always remember being part of the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program. I’m glad that I have changed my tutee’s life. I have helped them follow a better path so they can succeed in life. I’m grateful I was part of this experience, and not many people say that.

*name changed for privacy


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. Contact IDRA for more information or see the program website.