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.

 

One thought on “Jennifer Zavala: Tutor, College Graduate, Mom

  1. Lusana

    Congratulations on your success!
    What an awesome story, very inspiring.
    Thank you for sharing.

    Best,
    Lusana

    Reply

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