Category Archives: Tutors for All Blog: One Student At a Time

One Student At a Time

Tutors for All believes that the achievement gap will be closed in the trenches, one student at a time. This blog builds on our experience running individualized education programs for the last 8 years in district, charter, and parochial schools.

Kickball for All Spotlight: Andy Stewart

Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 9.56.25 AMAndy Stewart was one of the original T4A staff members who helped create Kickball for All in 2011; he’s played in K4A tournaments ever since. In 2014 he became a team captain, and his team The Test Takers took home the winner’s trophy. Although he has since moved back to his home state in Michigan, Andy travels back to Boston every year to take part in our kickball tournament – the true definition of a “team player”! He shared with us the origins of K4A, advice for new players, and his predictions for this year’s winners.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I grew up in Detroit, Michigan and moved to Boston with my wife in 2004. When we came to Boston, I found a job at Codman Academy as the Technology Director. I have always had an interest in technology – however, I knew this wasn’t something I wanted to do long term. I decided to make a career shift to Investment Management, so in 2009, I graduated from Boston College with a degree in Finance. I remained heavily involved with Codman Academy, which allowed me to meet Mark when he began to run tutorial at the school in 2008. He was aware of my new career path, and in 2010, I was hired as the Director of Finance and Operations for Tutors for All. Despite having since moved back to Michigan with my family, my dedication to Tutors for All has not diminished, and the organization will forever be an important part of my life.

Since you’ve been a part of K4A from the beginning, I have to ask- why kickball? Why not some other sport?

Kickball is a sport that most people know the general rules. Unlike baseball or football, it’s easy to explain and doesn’t require intense practicing and training. You have to admit, pitching a kickball is much easier than pitching a baseball. Because the sport is so inclusive, we thought it would be perfect for our event!

What is your favorite part about the event?

Each year when I know it’s almost time for Kickball for All, I immediately start looking forward to seeing Mark and the rest of my old co-workers. It’s always nice to catch up with them since I don’t get to see them often. I love watching the crowd of people grow each year as more people get involved with Tutors for All.

Is there anything you would recommend to people thinking about playing this year?

There are two things: the first thing I always tell people is that they shouldn’t worry too much about the mechanics of kickball. It doesn’t matter how well you play or if you’re inexperienced. The important thing is that you have fun, meet people, eat food and learn about the organization.

The second is that it’s always good to have different kinds of people at the event, especially former students who have experienced our programs first-hand. I like to encourage former and current students to attend the event, though many feel like they won’t be able to raise enough of money. In those situations, I tell students that any donation is helpful, and that the important thing is to have fun, meet people, and spread awareness about Tutors for All.

What has been the key to your success when it comes to raising so much money for this event?

It’s beneficial when you have co-captains who are actively helping you raise a team goal. In the past, Bryan Potts, Shane Magner and I co-captained a team called The Test Takers, and together we raised more money than we would have individually. When trying to get donations, I seek help from my parents, in-laws, relatives, friends and co-workers. I have built a strong networking platform where I’m able to send over 50 emails, and if half of those people donate then it’s a success. I’m often able to get large donations from my business contacts, and all of the small donations I receive from others start to add up.Then before you know it, I’ve reached my goal! I would rather have 1,000 people giving $10 than have 1 person giving $1,000. Being able to spread the word about Tutors for All is an essential part of Kickball for All.

Lastly, which team do you think is going to win Kickball for All 2016?

Well to be honest, last year I didn’t think we were going to win. It ultimately came down to the last five minutes when I was able to raise a couple of hundred dollars by asking people on the field to donate. This year, I know it’s going to come down to Mark and I (unless Bob Hornstein comes from left field). But my team will still win.

Tutors for All Receives NobleCause Grant for Volunteerism

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March 24rd, 2016, Boston – Tutors for All has received a $6,500 grant through NobleCause, a national grant competition mobilizing volunteers to address the greatest challenges facing their local communities. Each semester, Tutors for All recruits 30-40 volunteers to become tutors and program coordinators for various tutorial programs throughout Boston. As an incentive to recruit volunteers, the organization offers all volunteers free Charlie Cards to make their traveling easier as they commute to the different sites. With this grant, Tutors for All will be able to continue to offer their volunteers free Charlie Cards, a small token to thank them for their outstanding work.

“For ten years Tutors for All has relied on volunteers to provide crucial instruction of our kids,” said Mark Destler, Executive Director of Tutors for All. “The NobleCause grant allows us to give these volunteers the appreciation and support they deserve.”

$1,000,000 in total has been distributed to various schools and nonprofits through the NobleCause grant competition, with one hundred organizations awarded $6,500 grants. All grant recipients demonstrated a remarkable ability to raise community awareness, foster partnerships, and cultivate leaders who take action.

“We set out to encourage communities throughout the country to tell us their big, sustainable ideas to inspire quality volunteerism,” said Wesley Barnett, managing partner for TreeTop Commons and NobleHour. “By organizing volunteers to address local concerns, NobleCause award recipients are defining social responsibility right in their own communities.”

The NobleCause grant is made possible by the GiveWell Community Foundation and organized by NobleHour, a volunteer management tool that promotes a culture of civic engagement and charts meaningful acts of goodness. For more than a decade, NobleHour has been connecting and equipping thousands of schools, non-profit agencies, and organizations to shape well-rounded students and service leaders, build better communities, and measure their collective impact. To learn more, visit NobleHour.com.

Coordinator Spotlight: Sookyung Kim

2013-08-06_19.54.22-1Sookyung started working for Tutors for All over two years ago as a tutor at the MGH Youth Scholars program. She has always been dedicated to helping our students, first a volunteer tutor, then as a lead tutor last semester, and now as the MGH Program Coordinator. We talked with her to learn more about her background and what she’s taken away from her T4A experience.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am originally from South Korea, and came to the states after graduating from high school. Once I arrived I studied English at a language school in Boston for 9 months. Then, I continue studying at a local community college for a year and a half. After that, I  transferred to UMass Amherst to finish my undergraduate degree. When I’m not studying, I love to practice Kendo, a Japanese sword-fighting martial art.

2. How did you hear about Tutors for All?
After graduation, I got a job as a research technician at Mass General Hospital. I started looking for local volunteer opportunities around the hospital, and that’s when I heard about the MGH Youth Scholars program. I have always been interested in teaching so I decided to join T4A. I remember on my first day at the job, I showed up extremely over-dressed and in heels – I was so embarrassed!

3. What is the best part about working for Tutors for All?
The best part of my job is getting to know the students over the semester. MGH Youth Scholars program fosters a relationship with students over the course of a semester not only as a tutor to a student but also as a coach and scholar. It’s very rewarding when I know I’m able to support my students and guide them in the direction that I believe is best for them. Not only can you see how much they grow and develop stronger academic skills, but I see myself growing with the experience as well. For example, when two of my students Monica and Dorene found out they aced their final exam in spite of the struggles they had at the beginning of the semester, it not only strengthened their belief that we can make a change when we put in the effort, but also reminded me of how much I feel personally connected to the students, excited for them, and proud of their continual work. In addition, most of my students go out of their way to thank me for the academic help and support I provide them. For example, coaches and scholars know when the last day for us to be together as a part of Tutors for All at MGH program is, and Chang Liu came to our session to personally thank me even though he had other commitments for that day.

4. What plans do you have next?
I have worked for a while at a basic academic laboratory and now I am applying to MD/PhD programs, a training program for those interested in becoming a physician scientist. This is a great opportunity for someone who wants to do research, but work with patients as well. During the application process I was asked to list any meaningful activities I do, and T4A was the first thing that came to my mind!

5. How will you take what you have learned working for T4A into your future career?
When I’m doing research, I often find many mistakes in my experiments. These mistakes are always difficult to find, so you have to keep trying until you’re able to get some success. By working for T4A, I have gained so much positive energy from helping my students. That energy pushes me forward in my research and helps me stay positive. I could also see myself having the same dynamics I do now with my students as I will with my patients when I become a physician scientist, getting motivated as I witness positive changes I make in my patients and staying positive despite hurdles I am most likely confront during my research.

Tutors for All Announces New Partnership with Blue Hill Boys & Girls Club

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February 29, 2016, Boston – Tutors for All has announced a new partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston’s Berkshire Partners Blue Hill Club. Tutors for All will recruit and manage five tutors for the Club’s evening tutoring program for the spring academic semester, with oversight from their Education Director. The program will run from 5:30pm to 7:45pm on Thursday evenings at their Club in Dorchester, and will provide academic support to twelve Club members in the subjects of math, science, and English Language Arts (ELA).

“We are incredibly excited to announce this new partnership,” said Mark Destler, Executive Director of Tutors for All. “Ten years ago, we made a commitment to bring tutors to the students who need them the most, first in schools and eventually through working with community agencies. Given this Club’s long-standing history in the community, we know that our tutors will have a tremendous impact. ” The partnership is the fourth of its kind, following partnerships with Massachusetts General’s Center for Community Health Improvement, The YMCA of Greater Boston, and Squashbusters.

Since its founding in 1893, Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston (BGCB) has been helping young people, especially those who need us most, build strong character and realize their full potential as responsible citizens and leaders. BGCB does this by providing: a safe haven filled with hope and opportunity, ongoing relationships with caring adults, and life-enhancing programs in six core program areas. The organization serves more than 16,000 young people ages 6-18 in 11 Clubs, and through Camp Harbor View and YouthConnect. BGCB is an affiliate of Boys & Girls Clubs of America and The United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. For more information, visit BGCB on the web at www.bgcb.org.

Meet Our Dedicated Tutor: Elsie Mayo

Elsie Mayo is a fourth year student in the 3+1 Economics and Public Policy program at Simmons College. Last year she received her Bachelor’s degree in Economics, and she will earn her Master’s degree in Public Policy this summer. As if she isn’t busy enough, Elsie has been a tutor for our programs over the past 4 years, and is now the lead tutor at two of our sites, Codman Middle School and Tobin. Elsie’s hard work and dedication to T4A is truly appreciated and we wanted to share her inspiring story.

Elsie (left) with her mom at Tobin

Elsie (left) with her mom at Tobin

1. Tell us about yourself: where are you from, what school do you go to, what do you like to do in your free time?
I live in Washington D.C, but currently I am in Boston working on getting my Master’s degree in Public Policy at Simmons College. I am involved in several extracurricular activities, including the Colleges of the Fenway Dance Project and the Black Student Organization at Simmons. In my free time I love to sing in the gospel choir here at Simmons and back home. I also enjoy watching Netflix and spending as much time with my mom as possible whenever she comes to Boston to visit.

2. What made you want to join Tutors for All and why have you kept returning throughout the years?
Growing up I was always good at helping others with math because I was able to understand concepts quickly and find better ways to teach those concepts to my peers. When I heard about Tutors for All, I thought it was a wonderful program because it gave students the individual attention they needed. This is something that can’t be accomplished in a classroom where students learn differently. I knew this program would be the perfect fit for me and once I started I immediately fell in love.

3. What is the most rewarding part about your job?
Last year I tutored a student at Codman Academy, and earlier this year I saw that same student volunteer to be a tutor for the younger students at Codman Middle School. She had mastered her mathematical skills so much so that she felt confident enough to become a tutor. Just being able to build connections with the students and watch them grow throughout the semester is by far the most rewarding part about my job.

4. What’s your favorite memory while working with Tutors for All?
Our first week back after winter break, I went to Codman Middle School for a tutoring session. Many of the students had gone on a field trip that day so I was expecting them to be drained after a long day and not enthusiastic about tutorial. When they finally arrived for session, all I saw were smiles. The students were go glad to see us tutors and eager to start the semester. This was just a small reminder of why I always decide to come back each year.

5. What are your future career goals?
With my degrees I intend to work with youth in public schools. More specifically, I want to work in direct services and make sure students have all the resources they need to get into college academically prepared, to be successful in college, and to graduate.

6. What have you learned through working for Tutors for All? How will you take what you have learned and use it in your career?
Last year I had a conversation with one of my students who expressed to me that he wouldn’t get accepted into college because he was simply an African-American kid from a low-income family. Having come from the same background, I felt it was my obligation to assure him that if he works hard, he too can go to college and advance in his career despite all odds. This is one of the many reasons I have chosen the career path I intend to take.

7. Do you have any advice for current and future tutors?
Have fun and enjoy it, because if you enjoy it then your students will enjoy it as well. Be patient, be fair, be kind, and make the experience a good one for you and the students.

Element #7 of Highly Effective Tutorial: Leveraged Subsidies for Service (Part One)

You’ve followed our series this far, so you know what it takes to run a highly effective tutorial program. High-quality oversight, professionalized tutors, and balanced collaboration and autonomy, to name a few factors. You’re ready to go. There’s just one question, however. What’s all this going to cost?

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Well I’m not going to lie to you — individualized instruction changes lives, but it doesn’t come cheaply.  There’s a reason why the highest quality Tutoring and Test Prep orgs (shout out to local start-up Signet Education here, one of the best) can charge upwards of $100 an hour and still have students waiting in line for their services.

That being said, if you’re going to truly have Tutors for All (not some), you have to take advantage of each and every available economy at your disposal.  That means mastering the bewildering landscape of subsidies for service and then leveraging the heck out of them.  Below are a few sources for highly subsidized (or free!) tutors that you should have available..  Check back in a few days for some tips on how to make each work for you.

College and Graduate Students

  • Federal Work-Study
  • Service-Learning programs, especially ones that are tied to scholarships
  • Education, Sociology, Public Policy Classes and Departments
  • Fraternities and Sororities, many of which have service requirements

Recent College Graduates

  • Stipend for service “Corps” programs
  • Volunteer placement organizations such as Boston Cares
  • Networking events by groups such as Socializing for Justice

Professionals, retirees and/or mid-career changers

  • Partnership with local retirement community
  • Partnership with local churches
  • Partnership with local service organizations (Kiwanis, Elks, etc)

#BridgingtheGap Annual Appeal Campaign – We Did It!

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In case you haven’t heard, the results are in on this year’s annual appeal – and we’re proud to announce that we’ve raised a record-breaking $21,460! Thank you to all our supporters, including former tutors, friends and family, and our anonymous matching donor for all their generosity. This year, we set our sights on raising $20,000, an ambitious 33% more than our goal of $15,000 last year and more money than we’ve ever raised for our annual campaign – so being able to surpass that has been an even greater accomplishment. 

What made this year’s fundraising campaign so successful? We made a variety of changes this year that helped us surpass our goal. First was the addition of Development Coordinator Bob Hornstein, whose background in fundraising proved an invaluable resource. Secondly, we began our campaign at the beginning of December, allowing us more time to reach donors at multiple touch-points throughout the month and in a variety of ways. We sent letters and emails, made phone calls, and spread word via Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to reach as many people as possible to let them know about the campaign and the opportunity they had to give back. Finally, we reached out to our former tutors, many of whom have since graduated college and are pursuing diverse career paths, from earning PhDs in psychology and biology to working for CBS, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and City Year. It was a great opportunity to reconnect and hear about their work, and even greater to receive their support.

So, what comes next?  

  1. For those who have donated, look out for an email from us about matching gifts, which are an easy way to double your impact through your workplace. Have a gift eligible for matching, or want to check if you do? Email bhornstein@tutorsforall.org with your information.
  2. Making sure that we don’t just talk with our supporters once a year, but that we keep in touch throughout the year, reconnecting with former tutors and students and connecting with new friends of the organization. Help us keep in touch! If you are a former tutor or student, send an email update to spark@tutorsforall.org letting us know how you’re doing and what you’re up to so we can feature you in future posts!
  3. Lastly, even though spring is far away, we’re already hard at work on a certain beloved springtime athletic event… stay tuned for more details soon!

With all our gratitude,

Tutors for All Staff

Staff Profile: Bob Hornstein, Development Coordinator

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Bob started off in the for-profit world, but nowadays he uses his sales and marketing skills to help build a better world – most recently by helping us raise our greatest annual appeal amount yet. He sat down with us and talked about his background, what brought him to T4A, and what he’s looking forward to in 2016.

 

 

1) Tell us about yourself (where are you from, what do you like to do):

I grew up in Rhode Island and while I was in college I knew that I wanted to live in Boston, so the day after I graduated I moved to Boston and have been here ever since.  My first job was working as a cabana boy at a private beach club and I have always enjoyed being near the ocean.  Nowadays I constantly question why I live in a place where summer isn’t year-round, but I have no desire to move.  

2) What were you doing before you began working with Tutors for All?

The first half of my career was in sales and sales management in the for-profit world.  As I climbed the corporate ladder I was motivated by money and success.  Then I went through some life-changing events and made the decision to do mission-driven work in the nonprofit sector. I spent ten years working at a nonprofit health clinic, Pathways to Wellness, where I created a marketing department and worked on client retention, outreach and fundraising.  

3) What drew you to Tutors for All?

The mission of T4A is what interested me the most about my position here.  Access to a good education at all grade levels is the key to a successful future, not just for the individual student, but also for the community at large.

4) What has been the best part of working here so far?

I really enjoy being a team player and I like the way Mark encourages everyone to contribute ideas.  I am also very proud that my first major project here, our annual appeal campaign, has been a great success. I have to admit, the old salesperson in me really likes achieving goals. Actually, that’s not true – I really like over-achieving, so when I am given a goal I love to go above and beyond what is expected.     

5) What are you most looking forward to in your work with T4A in 2016?

When I was interviewing for my position here I became keenly aware of some of the long term goals that were being set for T4A.  While these goals will take several years to accomplish, I look forward to working hard to propel T4A to the next level and getting us closer to hitting the long term goals.   

6) Lastly, did you make any new years resolutions? If so, what were they and why?

I generally do not make New Years resolutions.  I have always believed that if you want to set a goal for yourself you shouldn’t wait until January 1st to do it; as soon as you decide to set a goal (or resolution) for yourself, you start that day.  But yes, in the past I have made different resolutions and found myself breaking them within weeks or days.  One year I made a New Years resolution to lose weight and cut down on sweets.  But around 2:00pm on New Years day I decided to bake a cake.  Oh, well – so much for that!   

Bridging the Gap: Tutors for All’s 2015 Annual Appeal Campaign

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“I like when Natashia knows that I don’t get something, and I also like how when she comes in to tutorial she always has a smile on her face… I would recommend tutorial for my friends that need it because you get paired with someone who cares about your education and wants to help you.”
Deja, 8th Grade T4A Student
 
Dear readers,
Tutors for All is experiencing exciting growth this year. We’re expanding our work at Codman Academy, continuing our work with the Tobin School and Massachusetts General, establishing a program at Boston Green Academy, and crafting a partnership with Squashbusters, a sport-based youth enrichment program. 

 

As our programs expand, we are embarking on our most ambitious organizational growth plan yet: laying groundwork that will take us from a small non-profit under the wing of Third Sector New England to a stand-alone non-profit venture. With your help, we hope to reach beyond the city of Boston and introduce our programs on a statewide level within the next three to five years. We have some hard work ahead of us, but we know that it is possible. 

 

With your help, we will achieve success. This year more than ever, your tax-deductible donation will go a long way as we prepare for these momentous changes. If you have donated to us previously, we ask you to join our “one-up” challenge by increasing your previous donation. If you have never donated, we ask you to dig deep, remembering either your own struggles when you were in school or those of a close friend, and how a program like ours could have helped. 
 
Make a tax-deductible donation to us today by donating online or by sending us a check made out to Third Sector New England/Tutors for All at 89 South Street LL02, Boston, MA 02111. 

 

All gifts, no matter the size, will make a difference. 

 

Sincerely,

 

Mark Destler, Executive Director

Element #6 of Highly Effective Tutorial: Tutors for All, Not Some

Welcome to Part Six of our “Seven Key Elements to Effective Tutorial” series. These are aspects we’ve identified over our long history of working with students, tutors, teachers, and schools that we believe are necessary for a successful tutorial program.

Today’s topic, “Tutors for All (Not Some)” is one that’s incredibly important to us – so much so that it’s our name! So why is a “tutors for all” mindset so important to running a successful tutorial program?

The easy answer would be “because ‘Tutors for Some’ just doesn’t sound as catchy.” The truth, however, is that while not all students struggle in the same way with the same problems, all students do benefit from greater individual assistance while learning. Providing individual tutorial time for all students, not just those who need it the most, positively impacts each student on an individual level and carries massive benefits for the class as a whole.

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No matter where you might lie on the growth spectrum, all of us always have room to improve.

There are four main reasons “tutors for all, not some” is so important to our model.
1) It removes stigma. Students are hyper-aware of how they are perceived by their classmates. If a group of students is singled out for tutoring while others are not, everyone knows that they need help, those students feel self-conscious as a result, and tutorial time risks turning into a space of embarrassment and resentment. By instituting tutorial across the board,  this dynamic disappears. Since everyone is required to attend, struggling students don’t feel singled out for needing help. And even students who aren’t get the chance to further sharpen their skills. In essence, there’s never an end to learning.

2. It empowers teachers to raise expectations. All teachers have faced this timeless dilemma: challenge students who are at or above grade level, or meet the needs of students who struggling to keep up? This question is even more difficult for those working with underserved students, as most students enter their grade several years behind and the question becomes, “Do I teach to the students, or teach to the curriculum?” Tutors for All came from Executive Director Mark Destler experiencing this exact problem and then seeing the transformation that occurred when his students received tutorial. “When my students were well prepared, I was a pretty good teacher,” he noted. “But when they weren’t, I wasn’t – I couldn’t be.” With the addition of tutorial, teachers are able to take that time that would’ve otherwise been spent going over fundamentals and instead spending it doing what they should be: engaging all students in the material.

3. It leverages economies of scale. On a more practical side, ‘tutors for all, not some’ makes more sense not just from an educational standpoint but also from a logistical standpoint.  Certain costs come with establishing any program no matter the size; the more students you have participating, the more you benefit from the resources provided.

4. Finally, it raises up the whole student cohort. Like the phrase “a rising tide lifts all boats,” tutorial for all students provides both tangible benefits, like all students being better prepared for class, and intangible benefits. You can’t measure the shift in students’ attitudes as they begin feel more capable, confident, and excited about learning, but you can feel it.