Valued Youth Partnership

Jerelie Marquez

Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program – 2015 Essay Contest

Winner: High School Second Place

View printable PDF version of this winning essay    


Jerelie Márquez
12th Grade, Odessa High School, Ector County ISD, Texas

Before I was in the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program everything was fine – or so I thought it was. Yes, I was an A-B honor roll student catching up after having my rebel year. What ended up happening to me was that I ended up pregnant. After that, everything changed. I saw things in a mother’s perspective. I wanted my son to learn and become the greatest thing he could achieve. I’m a senior in high school, and the main thing that bothered me was that I was a grown up going into the real world, and when you’re going from school to a job it’s a huge step in life. I heard about the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program a little into last year and, silly me, I thought: “Well all we’re really doing is reading a book with them or going over multiplication problems. What’s the big deal in that?” I won’t lie, the thing that pulled me in at first was the fact that I was getting paid. I needed some extra money. So after some convincing from the teacher and some paperwork, I was set!

I remember the first day I walked in there. Oh man! My palms were sweaty, and I was actually shaking from how nervous I was. The teacher assigned me my students: Gabriella, Danielle, and Mary*. When I first saw them, I didn’t just see some random strangers, but excited kids who were excited because they got to be taught by a high school tutor.

After getting to know each and every one of them, there is nothing in the world that will make you quit that program. For example, if I’m having a day with a rough start, the kids’ minds just help you remember how you were. They don’t have a worry at all except for finishing their homework. My kids are competitive but in a good way to where they push themselves and each other to learn more. Seeing that every day, it encourages me to do that in my classroom in school without worrying what’s next on my to-do list. Since the moment I had my son, I knew I had him to worry about for the rest of my life.

My kids taught me to just relax and do what’s in the moment. They tell me about their future career plans. Gabriella’s was what really impressed me because she says she wants to be a judge! Every time they tell me what they want to do, I just see a twinkle in their eyes and their motivation. I put myself in their position and wonder to myself what made my motivation fade over the years. From seeing them, all I wanted was the motivation they have now. They eventually brought it back, and it made me strive to try harder at what I do, all while having fun and not forcing it upon myself miserably like I used to do. I love the irony of how we all get taught something new every day I walk through that door in the elementary building. It’s an exciting experience.

*name changed for privacy