Valued Youth Partnership

Maria Armendariz

Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program – 2012 Essay Contest

Winner: Middle School First Place

View printable PDF version of her winning essay 

María Armendariz
8th Grade, Dr. Javier Saenz Middle School, La Joya

Since I became a tutor, my life has changed a lot. I used to have a bad attitude, and I was not the girl I am today. Now I am responsible, loving, caring and respectful, just to name a few. Let me take you back to the way things were before I found myself being a part of the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program.

I used to be a big troublemaker. I would always get into fights just because I hated the other girls. I was very disrespectful to my mom, teachers and anyone around who I disliked. I bet you I was the worst kid in all my classes. Starting the school year was not motivating for me. I figured I would be the same student as previous years: always in ISS [in-school suspension], always in the principal’s office, and always getting in trouble with my mom at home for not doing what she instructed me to do.

However, I can honestly say that the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program served as an intervention between my life and my education. I did not know what to expect coming into it. Tutoring kids? Getting paid? Those are some questions I had when I first stepped into the school I am now going to tutor at. The idea of me tutoring children wasn’t too appealing to me at first due to a family matter I encountered in the past that I will mention a little later. But it didn’t take long for me to realize that the job was not hard. Pre-kinder kids calling me “Ms. María” isn’t something I thought I would ever hear. For once in a long time, I felt important, wanted and needed by someone in a positive way. I have learned that it is a privilege to be in this program, and not to mess it up because my tutees from the elementary school really need my help in order for them to succeed.

My tutees have, in return, helped me by making me realize that I too need to pass my classes and learn so I can become educated. I am aware that I cannot be teaching or tutoring someone else while I am failing my classes and being disruptive at my school as well. It’s almost hypocritical. Because of this new perspective I hold, I now keep up with my work and grades for the reason that I don’t like failing. My teacher from third grade once told me that failure wasn’t an option, but I didn’t know what it meant back then. Now I know it means that you can do it and to not say you can’t, because you can.

In my house, there is a lot of yelling and commotion because I have three nieces and one nephew. Well, I actually have four nieces but one died when she was only two days old. That is what I was mentioning earlier when I said the idea of tutoring children was not appealing because I was still very hurt and saddened by the loss of my niece. Since that terrible day, I didn’t like kids near me.

I remember when Mrs. Flores, our eighth grade counselor, told me, “María we just changed your classes.” I was happy because I didn’t like my teachers. I didn’t know if I was going to make it in the program because, like I said before, I didn’t like kids. But in the end, I realized that I still have that compassion for kids because I love my tutees and they love me in return. My tutees not only served as a learning tool for me, but they served as a motivation for me to want to be someone special in life. That’s how my life changed since I got in this program. I want to thank Mr. Ramírez, my Coca-Cola VYP teacher, for supporting me and motivating me and my colleagues to succeed in our lives.

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 32,000 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 735,000 children, families and educators have been positively impacted by the program. Contact IDRA for more information or see the program website.