Valued Youth Partnership

Jose Rodriguez

Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program – 2015 Essay Contest

Winner: Middle School Second Place

View printable PDF version of this winning essay 


José Rodríguez
8th Grade, Captain Manuel Rivera, Jr. PS/MS279, New York City



How the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program Changed My Life
Ever since I became a Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program tutor, my life has changed drastically. I used to be a very obnoxious kid, always fighting with kids at school, bullying others, talking back to my parents, and arguing with my teacher. But this program opened my eyes and revealed that I really needed to stop this, because my bad decisions led me to a bad consequence: a Level 3 write up for cutting class. This program took me from being a D student to a B+ student. I used to be horrific at English language arts and science, and the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program made me realize that to get a good education, you need good grades, so I stepped up my game and now I am passing every subject.

My responsibility in this program is tutoring first grade students, which is actually not bad. I wouldn’t think that it would help me change my behavior, but it did. When I help my tutees with their homework, I feel like I’m a role model to them, because Jessica*, one of my tutees, used to be a pain in the neck. I kept my patience, and I spoke to her with passion, and the next day (Which was on January 12, 2015, and Yes, I remember the date) the teacher told me that Jesse was now behaving. And I told Jesse that she did a fabulous job, and I gave her some of my Lemon Heads™.

The tutees always make my day with their enjoyment of seeing my presence and running to me and hugging me in Mr. Rodríguez’s class every day. I also help them with reading, math, and spelling, you know, the basics. And those kids have proven to me that they are a very intelligent trio. They always tell me to teach them tips and little tricks so they can finish their homework faster and then go read a book.

I thought that I was never going to become a leader, but God has given me the opportunity to experience what it feels like!!! It is a wonderful experience!!! I feel like a special person because kids are following my good decisions. I am still struggling a little bit on English language arts, but I am working very hard to at least get an average in the 90s. I told my parents that I’m never going to be the devious child I was before. Thank you IDRA and Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program for changing my life.  

*name changed for privacy