Teens Win 2019 
National Essay Contest Awards
IDRA Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program Tutors Share 
Stories of the Program's Impact on Their Lives

"The tutees look up to me and it gives me a great sense of being needed, 
as if I'm important to someone. It feels really good to not only teach 
but also see them happy.
- Miranda Torres, 8th Grade, South San Antonio ISD 
Six students received prizes in a national competition among participants in the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program , a nationally-recognized cross-age tutoring program of the Intercultural Development Research Association. Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program tutors wrote about how the program helped them do better in school and how they had helped their tutees to do better.
  • First Place High School Winner -  Anahi Ortiz , 12th Grade, Odessa High School, Ector County ISD, Texas
  • Second Place High School Winner - Juan García , 10th Grade, South San Antonio High School, South San Antonio ISD
  • Third Place High School Winner - Emaje' Williams, 11th Grade, Odessa High School, Ector County ISD
  • First Place Middle School Winner - Vince Alindogan, 7th Grade, New Open World Academy, Los Angeles USD  
  • Second Place Middle School Winner - Fatima Valseca, 7thGrade, New Open World Academy, Los Angeles USD
  • Third Place Middle School Winner - Miranda Torres, 8thGrade, Dwight Middle School, South San Antonio ISD
There were competitions at both the middle school and high school levels in the United States. Winners from each competition are being awarded $200 for first place, $150 for second place and $100 for third place along with commemorative certificates. 
Highlights from the Winning Essays

In her essay, Anahi Ortiz wrote: "At first, I didn't know how to teach him because he moved too much. Once I even thought he was too hyper for me, but then I realized that I'm the same way... I found that crazy because he ended up with me, someone who has been through the same thing he's going through. Is this destiny or just God's plan? We might never know, but what I do know is that the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program has helped me impact another person's life by helping them improve their reading skills."  
"Every time I go over to the elementary school, I feel a sense of value from my tutees...," wrote Juan García. "Truly speaking, throughout my life, so far, I haven't had a good outlook on life. I take life as it comes, and there's not much in this world I could say I cared about. My tutees have brought light upon the good that still exists in this world. Having something to care about is what makes us human. I've begun to care more about myself and those close to me, and I care about my tutees."
In her essay, Emaje' Williams wrote: "This year, I had a student who didn't like to speak up and pay attention. He was afraid to be wrong and didn't want to be embarrassed. So, I started going a little slower with him and tried my hardest to figure out ways to help him understand. My tutee has improved so much since then!... His parents even sent a letter thanking me because he's changed so much, and he is always talking about the lessons I do with him... If it wasn't for the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to fulfill my goals. It has shown me that I can make a difference. I want to keep going and helping those kids who others don't. I am going to become a teacher and help all kids feel that they are good enough and change how they view teachers. I want to be a part of that change." 
"Teachers deserve substantially more appreciation and respect than they get, since they're building our future," wrote Vince Alindogan. "I know first-hand that it can be difficult to teach... At first, it was frustrating trying to teach the math concepts in a way my tutees would understand... Now, after a few months of tutoring and practicing my patience, I'm able to help my tutees and give them a better understanding of their assignments. I'm glad that I got the amazing opportunity to be in this program. It's made me a better person and taught me valuable things that will help me later on in life."
In her essay, Fatima Valseca wrote: "Before I was a tutor, my grades weren't so good, and I was close to failing the most important subjects: math and English... I have learned about responsibility because I am a mentor to all of the kids before me. Most importantly my commitment has improved like no other... Tutoring isn't just helping kids find an answer. It's building a bond with your tutees... I love knowing that I am making a difference in these kids' lives."
Miranda Torres wrote: "The tutees look up to me and it gives me a great sense of being needed, as if I'm important to someone. It feels really good to not only teach but also see them happy, smiling and having a good time learning with me... I have even been told that they ask for me when I'm out sick from school. That makes me feel special and good inside... To make a difference in someone's life, it's the best feeling in the world!"
essay booklet cover
Booklet with the Full Winning Essays
Essay poster
Honorable Mentions  
Honorable mentions were awarded to students in schools that submitted multiple student essays; these students had the highest score at their campus.
High School Honorable Mention  
  • Ariana Suchil, 12th Grade, Odessa High School, Ector County ISD
  • Deyonna Hernández, 9th Grade, South San Antonio High School, South San Antonio ISD
Middle School Honorable Mentions 
  • Frank Cerda, 8th Grade, Zamora Middle School, South San Antonio ISD
  • Sarah Peterson, 7th Grade, Carstens Academy of Aquatic Science at Remus, Detroit Public Schools Community District
  • Hameem Ahmed, 8th Grade, New Open World Academy, Los Angeles USD
  • Paula Olivo, 8th Grade, Dwight Middle School, South San Antonio ISD
Academy School Winner - Charles C Ball Academy, San Antonio ISD, Texas
  • First Place - Amber Ortiz, 8th Grade
  • Second Place - Selena Luna, 7th Grade
  • Third Place - Mynervalee Castillo, 8th Grade
  • Honorable Mention - Lizeth Acosta, 8th Grade
While not yet in middle school, our younger tutors in the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program  at PS94 Kings College School in New York City wrote their own essays. Below are the top scorers.
  • First Place - Sariyah Mitchell, 5th Grade
  • Second Place - Shareef Bell, 5th Grade
  • Third Place - Aniyah Curry, 5th Grade
  • Fourth Place - Tyler Gardner, 5th Grade
  • Fifth Place - Winner Martínez, 5th Grade
  • Honorable Mention - Jaylah Jones, 5th Grade
See how you can bring the 
Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program to your school! 
The Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program is a research-based, internationally-recognized dropout prevention program that has kept 98 percent of its tutors in school. In the program, secondary students who are considered at-risk of dropping out of school are placed as tutors of elementary students, enabling them to make a difference in the younger students' lives. 

Given this role of personal and academic responsibility, the Valued Youth tutors bolster self-discipline and self-esteem. Schools shift to the philosophy and practices of valuing students considered at-risk. The program supports them with positive recognition and instruction.

Dropout Prevention and More!
The goal of the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program is to reduce dropout rates. Participating schools have also seen
*  Enhanced basic academic skills and life skills,
*  Strengthened perceptions of self and school,
*  Reduced disciplinary action referrals and absenteeism, and
*  Strengthened school-home-community partnerships.

Since its inception in 1984, the program has kept 35,000 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 725,000 children, families and educators have been positively impacted by the program.

In Texas, the State Board of Education approved the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program as an innovative course eligible for credit. Students participating in the program can earn one state credit for their participation in this course.
IDRA Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program video
See our video overview of how the 
IDRA Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program impacts students and schools. 
[12 min]

IDRA Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program brochure
Get the program brochure.

June 28, 2019