Category Archives: Alumni Portraits

Making A Difference This Semester and Beyond

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Paul Mykos first discovered his love for tutoring as a student in his native country of Greece when he and a friend organized a weekly tutoring program for 1st-9th grade students. Now he’s a sophomore studying Chemical Engineering at Northeastern University, a choice which he credits to his own mentors in high school who imparted in him a passion for math and science.

Photo2Having first learned about Tutors for All his freshman year, Paul was quick to get involved. “I was looking to get involved with a tutoring program, but Tutors for All in particular impressed me, partly because it was the only organization that could prove it was making a difference, and partly because T4A’s reps clearly did what they did because they believed in it,” he said. He worked for a semester at the Mass General program and found himself partnered with Jennifer, a high school student originally from Colombia. “We contributed to each other’s growth,” he said. “When Jennifer mastered concepts which she previously thought were way beyond her level, we both felt so proud!”

When Paul’s English professor gave his class an assignment to present on something they felt passionate about and wanted to advocate for, he knew immediately what his topic would be. As he began researching for his presentation, however, he found that Tutors for All’s impact was even bigger than he first realized. “What we do is not just plain tutoring,” he said. “Through tutoring and mentoring, we are achieving something much bigger and significant. I strongly believe that any student should have the opportunity to attend college if they work hard regardless of ethnicity, social status or family income, and everyone should have the right to build a better future for themselves. What we do helps people achieve that, through education.” Paul’s passion for T4A even helped educate his fellow classmates.  “I could see everyone nodding in agreement while I was talking,” he said.  “Some classmates even told me that they had never thought about how lucky they were to be able to attend college.”

Paul sees tutoring as an important part of his life, and hopes that his work will convince others to see it that way, too. “Tutors for All has helped me realize how rewarding and precious it is to be able to help others and contribute to their improvement,” he said. “In the same way that my mentors were able to inspire me, I also hope to inspire and make a difference for everyone I have the privilege of mentoring.”

Meet an inspiring T4A Alum and Donor: Deejay

IMG_2671Deejay Robinson worked at our Codman, Prospect Hill Academy, and Dever Programs from 2011-2012 as a member of the Massachusetts Commonwealth Corps.  He got his Bachelors in Music in Vocal Performance at Milikin University in Illinois and then his Masters in Music for Vocal Performance at Longy School of Music in Cambridge.  He is now teaching in Boston and going to Boston University for a Masters in Music Education.  Deejay’s passion for education continually inspires us and we are excited to share our recent interview with him.

What are you doing these days?
Deejay: “As far as work goes, I have been teaching K-5 music in Boston Public Schools for 3 years now.  I teach at the Thomas Edison K-8 in Brighton.  I have grown the music program during my time there in the quality of the repertoire of what students are singing and concert attendance by parents.  There is an overall excitement for music and music education.  Next year, I’m leaving BPS and I’ll be starting a job at Buckingham Brown and Nichols teaching music for Kindergarten- 2nd Grade. I will graduate BU in 2016.  I am focusing my studies on the intersection of race and music.  Right now, I’m doing research.  BB&N has a great mission that will allow me to do more research.  I’m also hoping to involve their community.”

How well did Tutors for All prepare you for your work now?
Deejay: “T4A prepared me better than student teaching because when you student teach, you really only take over a class for a week.  A lot of that experience is really getting your feet wet.  At T4A, I was able to work individually with students who were deemed as needing improvement.  Through that, I was able to get creative and think through numerous strategies and techniques.  That gave me the springboard to be creative in classroom as I had already developed a tool box of things.  T4A also put me in contact with BPS.  I stayed at Dever for an additional semester after T4A stopped working there and tutored one student.”

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Jennifer Zavala: Tutor, College Graduate, Mom

Jen ZavalaI’m a first generation college student.  Going to college was very different for me.  I didn’t have any guidance.  I didn’t know anything about how the process worked.  Guidance counselors asked me: “Where do you want to go to school?” I couldn’t even put that together.  I remember my guidance counselor threw out a few colleges and Northeastern was one of them. I ended up going to Northeastern.

 

The first year or two of college was just figuring out what this is.  I was a straight A student in high school.  But you need to put in a lot of time in college. You have to have the discipline to be on your own, and to know that you need to go to class to do your projects.

 

I stumbled across Tutors for All because I was looking for a work study job.  I remember the day I met with Mark.  He interviewed me and hired me on the spot.

I grew up in Lynn, Massachusetts in a tough neighborhood.  It’s low income and back then, there was a lot of crime and violence.   So I had seen that all before, but when I started working for Tutors for All, I saw the other side of it.  I saw urban youth facing their own challenges.  Single parent households and  teen pregnancy were very common.  I wanted to make a difference, but  it was hard because I was a college sophomore telling high school freshmen and sophomores: “this is what we’re going to do”. I had to be an adult, yet I was still only a student. Eventually, I became a lead tutor and led a team of four other tutors as we helped Boston high school students.

 

When I got pregnant my sophomore year, I didn’t want to stop going to college.  My mom and dad said, “You have to work,” and I did as a coordinator at Tutors for All.  It was with a lot of sweat and tears and not without regrets.  I didn’t get to take full advantage of college life.  But I did get my degree and I graduated in 2008 on time.

 

I studied business management.  I have been working for banks ever since.  I started as a teller and I worked for a few financial institutions. Today, I work for First Republic in downtown Boston.  I am a private banker.  I deal with high net-worth clients and businesses helping them with all their needs: checking, savings, mortgage, and wealth-management.  I really like what I do.  I have a lot of flexibility.  I deal with clients all the time in different situations.  I get invited to events and get involved with different organizations to help make things happen around the city.

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My eight-year-old is in 3rd grade.  It’s been a tough year for her because she now has to be a big kid.  Because of working with Tutors for All, I have the experience to deal with her.  She comes home frustrated and she says, “Mom, I can’t do this math homework” so I break it down for her.  I am careful about how I say things so that I don’t make her feel like she’s not smart enough.  Tutors for All gave me that confidence to be able to help her.  I constantly challenge her to think: “Does this make sense?  Explain it yourself.  You may understand what you are writing, but do other people understand it?” I think it’s because I have that tutoring experience in the back of my head that it always puts me in that mode.  It’s an hour every day of homework: reading and writing homework, math homework.

 

My advice for current tutors is to have a lot of patience.   If a tutor doesn’t show a student that they really care,  it is not going to work.  As a tutor, that’s the hardest thing to learn how to do.  It takes time and it doesn’t happen right away.  No matter how much you get trained up front, it’s not something that you can be taught.  You can learn to lesson plan and how to teach long division, but it’s having that ability to show kids “I’m here because I care about you”.  That makes all the difference.  After all, everything that we do is driven by passion.

 

Meet Teach For America’s Newest Star: Tutors for All Alum Andreas Wolfe

Pictured: Chris Baginski and Andreas Wolfe

Pictured: Chris Baginski and Andreas Wolfe

We are happy to announce that five Tutors for All tutors were accepted to Teach for America this year. One of them, BC Alum Andreas Wolfe, shared his thoughts on how Tutors for All shaped his journey to TFA. 

T4A: What is your full name? 

AW: Andreas Warren Wolfe

T4A: Where did you go to college and what did you study?

AW: Boston College – History Major

T4A: What’s your hometown?

AW: Brookline, MA

T4A: When did you start working with Tutors for All?

AW: 2012

T4A: What drew you to work in education?

AW: When I first heard about tutoring, I applied because I wanted to do something completely different.

T4A: What’s your favorite thing about Tutors for All?

AW: The reward of seeing a child’s improvement.

T4A: What are you doing after you graduate?

AW: I will be teaching middle school or high school math with Teach For America in Philadelphia.

T4A: Has Tutors for All helped prepare you to serve with Teach for America? If so, how?

AW: Tutors For All has been extremely valuable and I owe it to Tutors For All for getting the job in the first place.  It was my first introduction to nearly all of the concepts that are vital to understanding how children work and the secret to helping them succeed.

T4A: Do you start in the September ? or is there some training beforehand?

AW: Training begins June 17th, and will last through the summer.

T4A: What are your plans for after Teach for America?

AW: My long term goal is to obtain a dual masters in city planning and transportation engineering in order to design safer and more economically viable streets.

T4A: What’s your favorite thing to do outside of teaching/tutoring?

AW: Biking, both for everyday transportation and for athleticism.

T4A: What’s your favorite food?/Place to eat in Boston?

AW: The Super 88 Food Court, most notably the Bahn Mi sandwiches at Pho Viet.  $3.95 is a small price for a life changing experience.

T4A: What’s the most interesting thing about you that we didn’t know?

AW: I’m a walking GPS.

 

 

 

 

Why did you tutor? Why do you support Tutors for All?

At our Tutor Alum Networking Event last month, we were able to interview a group of some of our inspiring former tutors. They talked about why they decided to tutor then and why they still support Tutors for All years after their experience.

There were some trends in the video. Two of the four main interviewees, Deejay Robinson and Nicole Spaulding, are currently working as teachers. Similarly, 22% of the members of our Tutors for All Alumni Network group on LinkedIn are in the Education field. 11% are specifically in primary and secondary education.

Nonetheless, there was a tremendous diversity in their answers. Jennifer Zavala highlighted how her personal experience coming from an immigrant family motivated her to work with underserved students and guide them towards the resources they need to succeed. Tai Sassen-Liang, who later went on to teach at the MATCH school, noted a sense of needing to “do something” on a hands-on and grassroots level for the larger community.

When talking about why they still support Tutors for All, Deejay commented, “As a teacher right now in Boston public schools…I know what’s needed. And with my experience with Tutors for All, I see the work that Tutors for All does. The impact that the one-on-one connection that their model has…Boston needs it. And I know that there are other urban districts that need it.”

Nicole also spoke with the authority of experience as an educator, and also specifically highlighted the power of individualized instruction: “I see the great things that individualized instruction does for kids and the ways that children who get individualized instruction can continue to grow.”

Jennifer spoke about how she wishes that there were more people to help young people access education resources. Tai asserted that the work that Tutors for All does is important because it connects tutors to the students that could benefit most from individualized instruction.

Listening to this group of Tutor Alums left us humbled and re-inspired in our work to bridge the achievement gap for underserved Boston youth.

Connecting with Superstar Alums, Colby Jackson…and you!

Today is the day! Our First Alum Networking Event is kicking off tonight at the Good Life! RSVP for the event here.

Superstar tutor alum Colby Jackson came by to talk to us about his experience working with Tutors for All, and also helps us promo our first Alum Networking Event. Hope to see you there! Details:

Good Life Bar
28 Kingston St, Boston, MA 02111
Monday, March 24
6pm – 8pm

Featuring: Colby Jackson, Chris Baginski
Camera work: Samantha Murray
Video editing: Esther Gonzalez

Interview with Kwabena, Our Newest Program Manager

 

DSC_3904You might recognize Kwabena as a former T4A Lead Tutor and Program Coordinator. Kobe has risen through our ranks and become an integral member of our team. He sat down with us earlier this week so we could get to know him better.

T4A: What is your full name?

KBA: Kwabena Boaten Adusei

T4A: Which partner school are you working at?

KBA: Currently I work at the Tobin School, as well as Codman Academy.

T4A: Where did you go to college?

KBA: I’m a Senior at Tufts University, graduating in May.

T4A: Congratulations! That’s a great school. What did you study?

KBA: My two areas of focus as an undergrad are Clinical Psychology and Spanish.

T4A: What’s your hometown?

KBA: Kumasi, Ghana. But my American hometown is Springfield, MA.

T4A: When did you start working with Tutors for All?

KBA: I came on-board as a Lead Tutor in the fall of 2012. I stayed on in that capacity for the full academic year. Then I worked in the Bicentennial Scholars program at MGH over the summer. I continued on to be a Program Coordinator at Jackson Mann, and now I am a Program Manager at Tobin.

T4A: That’s quite a rapid rise! So, who do you draw inspiration from in education?

KBA: {Chuckles} Teachers. Because teachers have the hardest job. Kids aren’t held to the same standards as adults. And you know, not only do teachers have to do the business of teaching kids, they also have to deal with behavioral issues and emotional issues that aren’t really in their job title.

T4A: Do you have a favorite quote?

KBA: Yes! And it’s in Spanish: “Poco a poco, se va lejos.” And it translates to “little by little one gets far.” That, and a stitch in time saves nine.

T4A: Nice! Totally appropriate as a Program Manager!

KBA: Oh yeah, absolutely! That’s something my mom always said to me.

T4A: Favorite band / musician?

KBA: I would say Dave Matthews Band is my favorite band, but my favorite musician is Jay-Z.

T4A: What’s one interesting fact about you?

KBA: I currently write Spanish poetry. I also am hugely into sports, and would have played soccer in college, but I chose academics over athletics, which everyone should!

T4A: So did you play club or varsity sports?

KBA: I played soccer all four years in high school as well as baseball and basketball until junior year of high school. Then I started focusing on track, which I continued through my sophomore year of college. I still play soccer in the summer- a bunch of friends of mine put together a men’s league, so that’s been fun.

T4A: What’s your favorite thing about Tutors for All?

KBA: The impact! Our mission is to Bridge the Achievement Gap and as a Program Manager you always feel like there are things to get done, or things to change, but then you see the enthusiasm in the students and you hear from the teachers and the administrators at schools. Well, they’re always excited and love how things are playing out and that immediate impact is what matters the most.

…One Donor at a Time

Tai_SLThe fight against the achievement gap takes place on many levels. Some of it happens in the political arena, where programs are drafted, debated, and, with luck, enacted and rolled out over many years. Such programs bring arguable improvements to the lives of inner-city youth across the country, but recent years have shown that the fate of such programs, and the youth they serve, lies entirely on surviving the next round of budget cuts or the latest political wrangling in Congress.

I chose to work for education equality on a different level. As part of Tutors for All, I worked with students one-on-one to raise their MCAS scores and improve their academics to a level they didn’t think was possible. I witnessed firsthand how effective the grassroots model can be when it is led by passionate and dedicated men and women. And when I graduated and moved on from the education field, I knew that this was a cause that I still wanted to be a part of. That is why I contribute to the Tutors for All Annual Fund.

Small-scale programs like Tutors for All do so much with so little that any contribution, no matter how small, will make immediate and tangible gains towards bridging the achievement gap. The donations you and I make today will go directly towards hiring tutors, making sure they have the materials they need, and ensuring that another generation of young Boston scholars will receive the opportunities they deserve. With funding for school programs at critical lows, it’s more important than ever that we step up and support those who work for a more equal future, day by day, one student at a time.

– Tai Sassen-Liang

Tutors for All Alum 2006-2009

Meet T4A Alum Contest Winner Vivian Dien

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Ms. Dien expressed disbelief when we called her to let her know that she’d won our first Alumnae/i Raffle and an iPad mini — it was, in her own words, “the first time … (she’d) won anything.”  After she got over the shock, she took some time to reflect on her experience as a tutor in our Academic Mindset Program at MGH’s Center for Community Health Improvement.

T4A: Given the wide variety of work-study options available to MIT students, what made you decide to work at Tutors for All’s MGH Program?

Vivian: I had a bit teaching experience beforehand and an interest in education, so finding a tutoring gig as a work-study option seemed like a no-brainer.  I choose to work with Tutors for All-MGH at first because it was conveniently located and the schedule worked with my classes at the time. I later realized that I had picked to work with a great organization that really prioritizes the growth of their students and takes a more holistic approach to education.

T4A: What would you consider the highlight of your semester of tutoring at MGH?

Vivian:I think the highlight of my semester was when I challenged my student to take initiative in pursuing some of her life goals–things that were related to learning more about her family heritage/culture and doing research on colleges she might be interested in. She came into tutoring the next week and was so excited about all the things she learned. She was teaching me for a change, which showed heightened confidence, focus, and passion.

T4A: Looking backwards, how has the experience affected you professionally and personally?

Vivian: My experience with Tutors for All has helped me grow in many ways. I have become a better listener, more empathetic, articulate, and patient–which have had positive effects on both my career and personal life.

MGH Program Manager Luisa Baginski also shared her thoughts on Vivian’s service in the MGH program, noting the following:

Ms. Dien “stood out immediately among a cast of stellar tutors as a dynamic, dedicated and ambitious individual. From the outset, she challenged her student, Jasmine, to go the extra mile in her work, and she did! Jasmine clearly caught the energy and enthusiasm Vivian regarded their studies with, and they achieved some remarkable things together. I would be very interested to watch the careers of both these young women, as I suspect they will both achieve great success.”

Alumni Portraits: Tai Sassen-Lang

Brandeis University, Class of ’09
Major: Linguistics, minor in Computer Science
Activities: Free-running club, running a high school linguistics olympiad

When Tai isn’t headbanging at the latest metal show or whipping up some homemade oreos for his friends, he’s hard at work in the classroom, making a difference in the lives of every student he meets. Tutors for All caught up with Tai to see how he’s been.

What are you doing these days?
I’m currently finishing up a year-long commitment as a MATCH Corps tutor, a full-time tutoring position at the MATCH charter high school in Boston.

How does your job relate to the work you did at Tutors for All?
Tutors for All shares a lot in common with the MATCH Corps program.Every freshman and sophomore student at MATCH receives a mandatory two hours of one-on-one or one-on-two tutoring, and sophomores receive an additional 4-hour block of MCAS tutoring on the weekends. Tutors for All’s belief that tutoring is an effective tool to help students thrive academically mirrors our own, and both programs share a sense of urgency and that there’s not a moment to waste. The similarities between the programs have helped me make a smooth transition to my position as a MATCH Corps tutor.

Did TfA help to prepare you for the work you’re doing now?
The skills that I learned from 3+ years with Tutors for All help me every day as I work with my students. Through Tutors for All I learned how to be a “drill instructor with a heart of gold” – pushing my students and demanding nothing but the best, but always letting them know that I believe in them, and that I care about their success and future.

Words of wisdom for tutors today?
Be patient. Always remind your student about why it’s important to do their best, and why the tutoring program is such a great opportunity for them. And when the going gets tough, remind yourself why you’re doing what you do. Tutoring can be a tough job at times, but programs like this make a direct and lasting impact in their target communities, and your work is important in making these programs succeed. Don’t forget it!

Fondest memory of Tutors for All:
In 2006, I started tutoring at City on a Hill’s MCAS program. After the semester concluded, I figured that I wouldn’t ever run into my students again, but two years later, one of them signed up to work for the program! Having a former student become a colleague and seeing him contribute to a program that helped him succeed on the MCAS was definitely the highlight of my Tutors for All career.

We wish you the best of luck!

Thank you for your service!