Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program – 2012 Essay Contest
Winner: Middle School Third Place
8th Grade, Dr. Javier Saenz Middle School, La Joya, Texas
Struggles to Success – How tutoring has helped me
It all started several years ago when my family decided to move from Mexico into the United States . The only thing we had was my dad’s truck and a very little amount of food for my family to live on while my parents found some sort of work. Things were challenging for me, especially school.
After a couple of weeks of settling in the United States, my parents finally enrolled me in school here in La Joya. I was very nervous to start school because my English was not fluent. I felt like I was going to fail all my classes. And we didn’t have the money to buy me new clothes like some of the other kids had. I often held my head down, almost ashamed of being myself or having others know where I came from. Little by little, I started making friends, but they were not the type of friends one wants to have. They were troublemakers, and I eventually turned into one also just to try to fit in. I was constantly getting [disciplinary] referrals, and I didn’t care who I hurt or what I did. My parents would lecture me about all the sacrifices they did by coming over to the United States so my brothers and sisters could live a better life through a good education. I didn’t care! I went through this type of behavior for about two years.
Coming into the eighth grade, I believed everything was going to be the same. It was another regular school year full of trouble and teachers not wanting to tolerate my behavior. As the first few weeks passed, I noticed that I wasn’t the same person I was before. One day, my counselor, Mrs. Flores, pulled me out of class to let me know she was changing my sixth period class from art to something called the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program. She explained what it involved, and that if my parents were ok with it, I would start to attend the class immediately. Getting paid really sounded like a great deal, especially for just helping kids at Clinton Elementary for one period a day.
The next day, I reported to Mr. Ramírez’s classroom for Coca-Cola VYP, and we started our tutoring sessions at the elementary. I was assigned to a teacher where I would have three kids who were im patient, stubborn and easily distracted – sort of like me in my regular classes. I soon began to comprehend that my behavior in school was something that needed to change because I was affecting not only my classmates and teachers, but also myself. The month flew by quick, and before I knew it, I had my first paycheck. Wow! I quickly turned it over to my mom to help out with any house expenses she had because we were still barely making it. I noticed that my behavior started improving, my patience level went up, and my grades soon started climbing. But best of all, my English language skills started improving simply by being a tutor for someone. According to the elementary teacher, my tutees are now at the point that if I don’t go for tutoring, they start missing me and asking for me. Being called “Mr. Sanchez” by my tutees also makes me feel important, as if I am their role model.
Now that my family and I are in a better place financially, I focus more on making the best out of the tutoring sessions. The pay is good, but that is no longer the overall focus of my Coca-Cola VYP partici pation. Things are getting easier for me. I no longer try to hang out with the wrong type of friends, I am closer to my brothers and sister, and I try to do more around the house and at school, because doing good for others makes me feel good now. My parents are very proud of the result they have seen in me as a result of the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program. I know Mr. Ramírez believes in me too, and he always lets me know that he is there to help me with anything I might need. So tutoring has helped me in many ways. But most of all, it has helped me become a better student, it has helped me feel needed and important, and it has made me realize that coming from Mexico into a new environment is nothing to be ashamed of. I hold my head up high now, and I thank the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program for that sense of accomplishment.
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.