Alumni Portraits: Katiri Willaum

Emmanuel College, Class of ’09
Double Major: Sociology & International Relations
Honors: Presidential Scholar ’05-’09, Magna Cum Laude, Dual Distinction in the Field
Activities: Dance Team, Red Cross Volunteer
Previous Tutors for All Programs: Fall ’06 – Spring ’09; tutor at City on a Hill, Lead Tutor at Codman Academy, Program Coordinator at Codman Academy.

What are you doing now?
I am currently an Executive Assistant with the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO) under the Department of Defense. We focus on stabilizing war zones (Iraq-Afghanistan-Pakistan) through economic development in order to increase safety for the people and our troops. It’s necessary and fascinating work. On the cooler side, I have 24/7 access to the Pentagon and recently went go-karting in Iraq.

How does it relate to the work you did at Tutors for All?
While on a surface level the two organizations seem very different, at their core both the TFBSO and Tutors For All are driven by a desire to create opportunity, develop potential, and improve someone else’s chance for success. It sounds very altruistic, however benefits reverberate much further than we think and in both missions, whether economic or educational, there are positive effects on security and, in general, for the community. I’m currently working with populations whose educational statistics are outright depressing and while we do have programs working with the Universities in the countries we are involved in, we could be doing more. Hopefully one day me and Mr. Destler can figure out a way to make the TFA mission worldwide!

How well did Tutors for All prepare you for your work now?
I didn’t realize how profoundly Tutors for All had affected me until I started working with the government. I had the unique experience of being a coordinator during my time with TFA, so it definitely prepared me professionally for the tasking that comes along with my position now. Mostly it prepared me to interact in a positive way with so many types of people; every student and tutor is a different person with a different personality and navigating through those differences to find effective communication tactics is actually a very political skill that is serving me well.

Words of wisdom for tutors today:
It’s not just a part-time job or a work-study gig; it’s important and life-changing work for your students and you, if you let it be. It’s easy to lose sight of that when you’re stressing out about college finals…

Fondest memory of Tutors for All:
One of my students was always in a terrible mood, always fighting me every step of the way, and even though I was frustrated I just kept trying to change the lesson to get her interested. My commitment did not go unnoticed and towards the end of the program she wrote me a letter apologizing for being ‘difficult’ sometimes and thanking me for not giving up on her. I still have that letter. Also, TFA is how I met one of my closest friends: Sarah Pingeton!

Knowing what you know now, how do you think Tutors for All could better reach its mission?
TFA needs the same things any good-doing organization needs to better succeed: more money, more resources and more manpower. The program in itself is excellent, you just need more of everything!

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