Valued Youth Partnership

Yamileth Gonzalez

Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program – 2012 Essay Contest

Winner: Middle School Second Place

View printable PDF version of her winning essay

Yamileth Gonzalez
8th Grade, Dr. Javier Saenz Middle School, La Joya, Texas

Different Person

Since I became a tutor in the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program, I have changed some things in my life to make me a more positive person overall. This was nearly five months ago. I first want to bring you into my heart and give you a bit of myself and my background.

I used to feel worthless and that I was not good at anything I did. Why? Well, my mom left me with my grandparents when I was younger. In many ways, her leaving me really opened up many questions about life and my education. I have learned to call my grandparents “mom” and “dad.” Coming into this school year, things weren’t looking so great for me. It seemed like no one needed me or wanted me. Then one of my friends told me about something called the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program. She told me that I should ask about what I needed to do to get into the program. So I did.

I approached my counselor, Mrs. Flores, about wanting to get involved in the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program. She explained the program, which involves going to the elementary to tutor children and getting paid for doing it. So a good thing for me would be to try to show people that I am good at something.

After two months of being in the Coca-Cola VYP, I realized that my emotions and perspective of life had not changed much. I still feel sad, depressed, mad and annoyed, everything I used to feel before. I figured getting paid and helping others become better students would be reason enough to make me change the way I viewed life. However, it wasn’t until my family got confronted with economic struggles that began to realize that maybe Coca-Cola VYP was something I shouldn’t risk getting removed from, because, after all, it was now going to help my family financially. That is when I decided to wake up and view this program with a positive outlook.

I began to make some noticeable changes in my life. I was becoming a better person. How? I noticed that my two tutees make me realize that what I have been through is not as hard to overcome as I thought it would be. I help them with their work and don’t want them to go through the same things I am going through.

I see a lot of myself in my tutees because I also used to struggle with math and reading. I notice that many times they look sad or frustrated with what they are trying to learn, so I jump in to put a smile on their faces with what Mr. Ramírez our Coca-Cola VYP teacher calls “positive reinforcement.” By seeing them smile, I too have come to forget a lot of my problems I have at home sometimes. They make me realize that I am needed and I am wanted by someone.

Since I got in this program, I have also noticed that I am more responsible, am respectful to others and I don’t misbehave in class as a form of rebellion due to family problems like I did before. I can honestly put my head up high and say proudly that Coca-Cola VYP has made a huge difference in my life. I have also helped my mother more and learned how to save up money in case of an emergency.

I am very proud of myself and of the people who created this program, because thanks to the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program, I have become the person I am today. I also have to thank two others who had a strong influence in me changing my ways and tutees of life, my tutees: Aurora and Javier.

I am so glad that I listened to my friend and am making a difference in other people’s life as well as mine. I hope that others get the same opportunity I am getting now. If they do, I would encourage them to really appreciate it. Sometimes the same feeling of sadness and depression come to me, but I begin to think of where I am today compared to then, and all things become brighter and better to me. I come to realize that problems are going to be everywhere, such as school and at home. It’s just a matter of how I learn to deal with them and overcome them so I won’t find myself in the same place I was at before, emotionally.

I hope that more people search the world for good things and reachable goals. I won’t be able to forget this program. I hope that the kids who have the help they need use it wisely and not in a bad way.

Oh, and when I have a baby girl I will probably name her Aurora, like one of my tutees, and if I have a boy, then I’ll name him Javier like my other tutee. I hope that the people who read this understand where I’m coming from in terms of background and family. If it makes you sad, don’t worry… you can cry. I don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed by the fact that my mom left me in the care of my grandparents. Tell you why? Well, I will always know that aside from God, there will always be at least two people who will love me as if I was their very own. Maybe life would have been different if my mom hadn’t left me, but in life things happen for a reason, and the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program happened to make me the person I might not have been before in life.

*names changed for privacy

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.