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Valued Youth Partnership

Emaje’ Williams – 2019 Third Place High School Essay Winner

IDRA Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program – 2019 Essay Contest

Emaje’ Williams

11th Grade, Odessa High School, Ector County ISD, Texas

One mistake I made in life was giving up on finding help when I needed it the most in school. Although the help might have been there, I felt I couldn’t ask. Some of my teachers would act as if they didn’t want to help me, or other students would make fun of my questions – to the point where I just stop asking anything.

Feeling as if you are not smart enough can change and ruin the way a child learns. It can also play a part in how they decide to act in class. I speak from experience. I stopped trying in my classes. I started acting out in them and tried to be the class clown. I became disruptive to other students’ learning, and I started getting sent to the office. I was there so often that the principal became my “best friend.” One day, while I was in his office, he looked me in my eyes and asked me why? Why was I acting this way with my teachers? What was the reason I acted out in class but was wonderful while I was in the office? At first, I couldn’t answer him, but then I told him all the things. I started crying because I really felt as if I wasn’t smart enough and I was embarrassed. In that moment, he told me I was capable of anything and to never let someone be the reason I’m not succeeding. He became my mentor and would help me with anything I needed help with, all I had to do was ask.

My principal never really knew how much he impacted my life because from that day forward I decided to change. I started to pay attention in class, I stopped acting out, and I stopped being the class clown. I decided I wanted to be a teacher and to help students going through the same situation. That’s exactly the opportunity the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program gave me. It gave me the opportunity to make the kids feel comfortable enough to ask me the questions that needed to be asked. This year, I had a student who didn’t like to speak up and pay attention. He was afraid to be wrong and didn’t want to be embarrassed. So, I started going a little slower with him and tried my hardest to figure out ways to help him understand. My tutee has improved so much since then! He is able to keep up with the other students and has no problem asking questions. His parents even sent a letter thanking me because he’s changed so much, and he is always talking about the lessons I do with him. This is exactly why I wanted to work with kids. I wanted to help and now I know that I can.

If it wasn’t for the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to fulfill my goals. It has shown me that I can make a difference. I want to keep going and help those kids who others don’t. I am going to become a teacher and help all kids feel that they are good enough and change how they view teachers. I want to be a part of that change.


See color highlights flier for 2019 (pdf).

See the booklet with all the winning essays from 2019 (pdf).

The IDRA Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program 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 725,000 children, families and educators have been positively impacted by the program.