Get resources for school support in the wake of violence.

Learn More

Valued Youth Partnership

Michaela Valdez

Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program – 2014 Essay Contest

Winner: High School First Place

View printable PDF version of her winning essay

Michaela Valdez
9th grade, South San Antonio High School ,
San Antonio

How has tutoring helped me?       

Alone, timid and depressed. That’s how I started off my ninth grade year. I was very shy, alone and depressed. I have always been alone because I was so shy. The reason I was so shy was because I was homeless. I was always insecure about myself for that one reason. I had lost all of the self confidence that I had. I had always been the shy and quiet girl in the back of the class; not many friends or anything. I started failing because I had so much on my mind. Then one day, I asked my teacher if she knew anyone who would hire someone at 14 years old. Then, she introduced me to the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program.

Mrs. Jones explained to me how the program works. I had to tutor three kinder garden students at Kindred Elementary School . These students have helped me with being more social. Because of my tutees looking up to me, I wanted to change for them. I went from the girl with depression who was alone and wore all black every day, to someone who is happy, social with friends and wears more color. I used to hide the real me from the world because I feared being judged. But spending so much time with my tutees, they taught me that it’s okay to be myself. So now, because of them, the real me is here. I’m not trying to be someone else anymore.

Before I started this program, I was homeless and depressed. Now, with the money that I get and the kindergarteners that I tutor, I have a house. I have gained my self-confidence back. I used to never have faith in myself, until now. Now that I have hope and faith, my grades have gone up dramatically. I used to have a 40 in my Algebra class. Now, I have an 80. And it’s all thanks to this program. The Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program has helped me improve myself: personality wise, appearance wise and financial wise.


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.