Valued Youth Partnership

Irma Tinoco

IDRA Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program – 2016 Essay Contest

Winner: High School Second Place

View printable PDF version of this winning essay 



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


There was a time when I did something bad. And when I say bad, I mean bad. I’m a 19-year-old girl who is in her junior year of high school. I should have graduated in the year 2015, but sadly the mistakes I made put me in the class of 2017. That’s a whole two years of non-success and laziness. But luckily for me, ever since I joined the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program, my life has changed drastically. Now I’m more motivated in everything I do. And knowing if I fail at something, I have two little tutees who look up to me and try to be like me, it kind of makes it hard for me. Because if I mess up, they will think that it is ok to fail, and I don’t want that for them.

When I was a sophomore in high school, I guess I was still in the part where I thought I knew everything in life, but the truth was I didn’t. In thinking I had everything together; I would skip class every day to the point where I had to make up hours. My junior year wasn’t any better. If anything, it was worse because I would go to school every now and then. My mom even got court warnings, and I would lie to her face and say the teacher is just counting me absent by accident.

And then in my second year of junior year is when my counselor recommended me for this program. At first, when I heard the name Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program, my first thought was, “Why would they put me in a class where the only thing you learn about is soda.” But I was wrong. My counselor explained what the program is all about. And to say I was going to get paid to go to this class was probably the best thing he said because I didn’t like school. But now that there was money involved, I could assure you that is the only class I wasn’t going to skip.

The first day I met my kids [tutees], I was pretty excited. As the days went on, I started to get closer to them, and then I realized that I didn’t want to be a failure. These kids motivated me to push further in my education. When you have little ones who look up to you like you’re some kind of super hero, you don’t want to let them down. So every time I think about skipping, I think of how much I struggle in school, and I don’t want that for them.

Thanks to these kids, I asked my counselor if there was any way if I can graduate sooner than 2017. My counselor not only gave me the hard cold truth, but also gave me an opportunity to walk the stage 2016! I cried when I heard the news that I was going to graduate sooner than most expected. And I shared the news to my tutees and hearing them say they were proud of me was amazing. They actually saw how much hard work I put in, and they now want to achieve in their studies. This whole program changed me for the better. I don’t skip class anymore, and I am officially considered a senior with a passing grade average. I am forever thankful to be a tutor in the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program.