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Valued Youth Partnership

Luis Acosta

Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program – 2013 Essay Contest

Winner: Middle School First Place

View printable PDF version of her winning essay 

Luis P. Acosta
8th grade, Dr. Javier Saenz Middle School, La Joya, Texas

Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program – A Transforming Experience        

The Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program is a life changing experience for all who get chosen to participate. It creates new doors for everyone who thinks they have no future, have low self-esteem and have no desire to get a good education and attend school. I say that because that was me before I got chosen to be a part of Coca-Cola VYP. The program has made me a better student in so many ways, not only in school but out in my community. Let me bring you into my life and explain to you why the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program has given me new light to becoming the person I am now, compared to the person that started the program six months ago.

The Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program made me a better individual all around. I used to be a big troublemaker who would not care about who I hurt, what grades I got or how rude I was to everyone around me, including teachers and my parents. You see, there is really no true role model I can look up to both at home and around my neighborhood. It’s so hard to become someone in life when you come from a violent and low-income part of town. I always believed that I could never do anything right. Every time I tried my best in whatever I did at school or at home, I failed. My friends had the biggest influence in everything I did. As a follower, I was guided to become a failure, or so I thought!

Coming into this school year, I figured things would just continue the way they were. I would still continue to fail, be lazy in class and misbehave. Walking into my school and receiving my schedule the first day I saw I had a class that I had really never heard about called the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program. I asked my counselor what that was all about, but she informed me that Mr. Ramirez, our Coca-Cola VYP coordinator, would explain the entire program once I went to class. As I entered class that first day, I noticed that I was surrounded by smart students. I thought I was going to be the only dumb student there and wanted to get out already. Why would I want to tutor somebody else when I’m the one who needed the extra help? I didn’t believe we were actually going to get a pay check each month. All these were doubts and questions I had as Mr. Ramirez explained the program. However, I began to feel a slight sense of motivation to maybe want to stay and give it a chance. Boy, am I glad I made this decision!!!

Throughout the next few months, my perspective on education, life and future goals changed. When we go to Clinton Elementary and tutor our tutees, I feel like I’m a part of them. I myself feel like a little kid when I’m tutoring them. All I hear from my tutees when I walk into the classroom is, “Mr. Luis, Mr. Luis!!” I enjoy making learning fun for my students so they won’t get bored and so they won’t forget what I taught them because I wouldn’t want to be bored in learning what I have to learn back at my school. In my mind I thought, “I cannot mess up the bond these tutees and I hold because I really want them to succeed in life, and I don’t want them to have the same perspective on education as I had just a few months earlier.”

Now something almost seemed silly. How was I going to fail my classes at Dr. Saenz Middle School and expect my tutees at the elementary to pass their classes? I had it all backwards and felt like a big hypocrite. I began applying myself more in my studies, and within a few weeks I began to see my grades were going up. I had more confidence in myself to do whatever I needed to do to become a better student. Mr. Ramirez once told me that if I want to go somewhere and be somebody, I better wake up and pay attention. He was right!

The Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program has transformed me into a smart, responsible, caring and respectful individual not only within my school, but out in my community and at home. My parents have seen the positive change in me from my school grades to my attitude. So far I’ve learned that I cannot let my friends and surroundings dictate who I want to become in life, or where I want to go. I have to stay focused! This program has guided me into even thinking of my educational goals beyond high school. Now when I think of possible career options, teaching has slid right up to my top choice. Who would have known, that I, Luis Acosta, would ever think of becoming an educator in life and continue making a difference in the life of others just like the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program changed my life. Coca-Cola VYP has made me a better individual overall. It has truly been A Transforming Experience!


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 33,000 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 787,000 children, families and educators have been positively impacted by the program. Contact IDRA for more information or see the program website.